If you are a recreational water user, whether you’re a boater, a swimmer, a shoreline resident, or even a float plane pilot, you may encounter a wide range of invasive species. In lakes and slow-moving streams you may see species such as bullfrogs, invasive crayfishNew Zealand mud snails, nutria, or plants such as Brazilian elodeaEurasian watermilfoil, parrotfeather, or saltcedar. In marine environments, you might see tunicates or the European green crab.

These species could hitch a ride in your boat or gear and spread to other waters.

Other species that aren’t in Washington’s waters but could be here soon include the mitten crab, the northern snakehead fishzebra and quagga mussels, and water chestnut.

What Can I Do? 

Clean your boat, trailer, and other equipment that entered the water. Specifically, you can do the following:

  • Inspect your equipment for mud, plants, fish, and animals, and remove everything you see.
  • Drain water from all equipment.
  • Clean your boat and any other equipment that entered the water, and allow them to dry thoroughly before moving them. Learn cleaning techniques.
  • Stop at boat inspection checkpoints in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and other states. You will not be subject to penalties if staff find aquatic invasive species on your boat.

Don’t release live bait. 

At the end of a day of fishing you might be tempted to release unused live bait into the water. While this may seem like the humane thing to do, it actually is a dangerous practice that could have significant consequences. The bait or the material the bait is packed in may not be native to where you are fishing. By releasing live bait, you could be spreading invasive species such as red swamp crayfish or rusty crayfish, or Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus.

Do your best not to release live bait to the waters where you’re fishing. Instead, take the following steps:

  • Avoid purchasing or using invasive species for bait. Ask your bait suppliers about whether they sell non-native species such as crayfish.
  • Dispose of your unwanted, live bait in the trash, or give your bait to another angler.
  • Be careful not to let bait escape unintentionally.

Out-of-State Permit

Boaters, Seaplane Operations, and Commercial Transporters

The Washington Invasive Species Council encourages operators of watercraft, seaplanes, and commercial transport not registered in Washington to help support clean water by buying an aquatic invasive species prevention permit.

Get permit details from our partners at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ballast Water

Commercial vessels may introduce or spread invasive species when discharging ballast water or transporting those that have attached to a boat’s hull. In addition, species such as the Mediterranean white snailgypsy moths, or wood-boring insects attach or burrow into products or packaging on one side of the Pacific Ocean and disembark on the other-in Washington State.

Here’s some materials that address ballast water.