Game and Fish Experiences Increase in Watercraft Decontaminations Over July 4 Weekend

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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department saw a spike in watercraft violations over the Fourth of July, including quagga mussels (pictured), an invasive species that can get into boats.

GREEN RIVER — Wyoming Game and Fish Department game wardens and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) technicians spent a very busy July 4 weekend working to prevent invasive species, like zebra and quagga mussels from entering the state.

Jessica Warner, Game and Fish Evanston AIS Specialist, advises if you are traveling east on Interstate 80, and will cross into Wyoming with a watercraft, do yourself a favor and make certain the watercraft is clean, drained and dry.

“Please know that you will encounter a Wyoming AIS check station at the Evanston Port of Entry, immediately east of the Wyoming/Utah border,” Warner said. ”Wyoming state law requires that all watercraft, which includes kayaks and canoes, must stop at all open AIS check stations encountered. Fines for driving by an open check station are high.”

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Plugs and Barriers

Wyoming law also requires that all plugs and barriers to water be removed and remain open while the watercraft is being transported within the state.

During the holiday weekend, Wyoming game wardens pulled over watercraft owners who did not stop at the mandatory AIS check and wrote citations. One watercraft owner who had last boated on mussel-invested Lake Powell, was sent back to the AIS check station so the watercraft could be decontaminated.

The Wyoming Game and Fish AIS check station at the Evanston Port of Entry is the busiest check station in Wyoming, especially during summer holidays.

Increased Enforcement

To handle the holiday rush, the Department pulls in additional inspectors from across the state. Department employees inspected 850 watercraft July 3-5. Of these 850 inspections, 129 were watercraft coming from states or waters known to be infested with zebra or quagga mussels.

These watercraft pose a serious threat and are subjected to a very thorough “high-risk inspection” to determine if they require decontamination with very hot water to kill any mussels that may be lurking in ballast tanks or elsewhere on the vessel. Inspectors decontaminated 51 such watercraft during the holiday.

Although routine inspections generally take less than five minutes, high-risk inspections and decontaminations can take a significant amount of time – an hour or longer. Watercraft owners can avoid the extra time by transporting a watercraft that is Clean, Drained and Dry.

Tips to Avoid Spreading Invasive Mussels

Wes Gordon, Game and Fish Green River Regional AIS Specialist provided some advice to ensure that boaters are doing their part to avoid spreading these invasive mussels.

“After each use, lower the motor and allow water to drain, pull all plugs and leave them out to insure water drains during transport, and run the bilge and ballast tank pumps,” Gordon said. “Running the pumps removes any remaining water. If you have jet skis or wave runners, start the engine after it is on the trailer and rev it a couple of times to burp the water out of it. Clean, dry boats speed up inspections.”

Boaters can also reduce the amount of time spent at an inspection station by ensuring that the boat battery is charged so the motor can be lowered and pumps can be run, storing the anchor and anchor rope where an AIS inspector can reach them, and removing the boat cover when they enter the check station.

Front Line of Defense

Wyoming AIS inspection stations are an important front line of defense in keeping Wyoming waters free from aquatic invasive species, but the best defense is vigilance by the boating public.

Gordon explained, “We know that there are plenty of boats that enter Wyoming and risk a citation by launching without an inspection. We cannot catch them all. Our best line of defense is to help boaters learn how to Clean, Drain and Dry their boats after every trip on the water.

“If boaters will take those simple steps, we can protect Wyoming’s waters. We’re happy to see more and more boaters every year with boats that are clean and dry, but we have a long way to go,” Gordon concluded.

Watercraft owners can get more information about the Wyoming AIS program by viewing the WGFD webpage at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Fishing-and-Boating/Aquatic-Invasive-Species-Prevention.

For questions and or more information, call the Game and Fish Green River Regional Office at 307- 875-3223.