MN: New aquatic invasive rules greet anglers at accesses

St. Paul – Don’t expect those watercraft inspectors you’ve seen
at public accesses across the state to go away anytime soon.

In fact, you’ll probably see more of them – and a greater DNR focus
on aquatic invasive species – as a result of a new law Gov. Mark
Dayton signed late last week.

Various portions of the bill will affect every boater in the state.
One part of it also has a direct effect on fishermen who use live
bait.

In the past, fishermen leaving infested waters have had to drain
the water from their bait buckets and leech containers. Now, all
anglers leaving any water body in the state have to empty their
bait containers.

“For anglers, that’s going to be the big one,” Luke Skinner, who
supervises the DNR’s invasive species program.

“We don’t want anglers to throw away their bait – they just have to
exchange the water,” he said.

Skinner recommends they bring extra water with them and keep it on
ice in their vehicle. Some people bring a jug or two of frozen
water and leave it in their truck while they’re fishing. By the
time they’re done, the ice is melted and they have cool water to
put their bait in.

After they drain the water from their bait bucket at the landing,
they can replace it with the new water.

There’s at least one tackle company that’s already looking at
manufacturing bait buckets to make the process easier, Skinner
said.

While the bait bucket law went into effect as soon as Dayton signed
the bill, another part of it doesn’t go into effect until later
this summer. Under that new rule, all boaters will have to display
on their boat a free decal that lists invasive species rules.

The decal will remind boaters what they have to do before leaving
the lake – such as draining all water from the boat and making sure
there aren’t any plants attached to their boat or trailer.

The decals are mandatory, but boaters who don’t display them won’t
be subject to a ticket until August of 2014.

“It’s about education,” Skinner said.

The bill also gives the DNR and licensed peace officers more
authority “to inspect any watercraft or water-related equipment
that is stopped at a water access site, any other public location
in the state, or a private location where the watercraft or
water-related equipment is in plain view, if the officer determines
there is reason to believe that aquatic invasive species, aquatic
macrophytes, or water is present on the watercraft or water-related
equipment.”

The bill also allows COs and peace officers to set up check
stations where anyone with a boat will have to stop. There may also
be decontamination stations.

There also will be “authorized inspectors” at some sites. Any
boaters who refuse to have their boat inspected could be prevented
from launching.

Also beginning this summer, all lake service providers will have to
complete invasive species training.

“If you haul docks and boats and boat lifts for hire, you will have
to get a permit and be trained by the state,” Skinner said.

More than 100 such people already have been trained this year, he
said.

It was a lake service provider who initially discovered zebra
mussels in Gull Lake. That person had received training and “found
one zebra mussel on one dock,” Skinner said.

Other provisions

The bill that Dayton signed included a number of other provisions,
including:

• Allowing Lutsen Resort to withdraw up to 150 million gallons of
water each year from the North Shore’s Poplar River. Several
conservation groups, including Minnesota Trout Unlimited, opposed
the provision, arguing it would hurt trout habitat. The permit that
allows for the water withdrawal is good for 5 years.

• A requirement the DNR report to the Legislature on shallow lake
management.

• Creation of an Adopt-a-WMA program.

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