Helena, Montana

10 Must Do’s After Boating or Fishing in Montana

Montana is home to some of the country’s best rivers and lakes for fishing and boating. Now that summer’s finally here, it’s a great time to get out on the water, but you must remember to follow all rules and regulations.

The most important thing to do after fishing and boating is to stop at all watercraft inspection stations and make sure your boat is clean, drained and dry, says Tom Woolf of the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) team at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP). This helps prevent the transport of aquatic invasive species, which are any animals, plants and pathogens that spread to areas where they don’t naturally occur, causing environmental and economic harm.

If you’re an angler or a boater, there are a number of other things to remember when you’re done for the day. Here are the 10 most important.

1. Put Your Fish on Ice

If you’re transporting your fish home to eat it, put it on ice right away so it will taste better and last longer. Plus, it’s illegal to transport standing water in boats, so you’ll need to drain your live well and promptly store your fish on ice.

2. Don’t Be a Ramp Hog!

Move quickly to be courteous to other boaters and anglers. Back your trailer down, load your boat, and then move out of the way. Always check the boat and trailer for weeds and mud to ensure you aren’t transporting any invasive mussels or other species.

3. Caught A Big One? Get It Certified Right Away

If you think you’ve caught a record-breaking fish, put it on ice and go to a grocery or hardware store to have it weighed. Then go to the FWP office to fill out the record form. (But remember: never transport live fish from one waterbody to another.)

4. Get Inspected – and Clean, Drain and Dry

If you approach a watercraft inspection station, you must stop – and if your watercraft is already clean, drained and dry when you pull into the station, your inspection will be much quicker. Your watercraft must be inspected if you’re coming into Montana from out of state, you’re traveling west over the Continental Divide, you’re entering the Flathead Basin or you’re coming off Tiber or Canyon Ferry Reservoirs.

5. Inventory Your Gear

Replace your hooks, lures, bobbers and sinkers, and clean your reel and fishing line. If you do this right away and replace anything you need, your next trip will be much easier.

6. Check Your Trailer

Make sure your coupler is working properly, and check everything from your lights and tires to your safety chains for rust or damage. Consult this complete trailering checklist to make sure you’re good to go.

7. Clean Your Waders and Boots

Tiny invasive species can hide in your gear, particularly felt waders. Use a scrub brush and thoroughly clean and dry everything you wore. The Invasive Species Action Network has boot cleaning stations all around the state.

8. Pick Up Your Trash

Never leave any garbage behind – especially fishing line that can harm wildlife. You can find monofilament recycle tubes at many fishing access sites.

9. Dispose of Live Bait Properly

Dispose of unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts in the trash. Never dump live bait into the water, because you could introduce invasive species that will harm native populations.

10. Thank the Land Owner

If you access fishing or boating sites through private land, be sure to thank the owners.  Pick up trash, leave gates as you found them and drive on the track. Always remember to be courteous!

For more information about the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Aquatic Invasive Species program, visit CleanDrainDryMT.com or call (406) 444-2440.

AIS Bureau | Montana FWP

1420 East Sixth Avenue
Helena, MT 59620
Phone: (406) 444-2440

FWP Watercraft Inspection Stations​

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