Clean, drain, dry, dispose: The key to protecting Missouri waters from invasive species
Clean. Drain. Dry. Dispose
If you like to fish on the lakes or do any other type of recreational boating on Missouri’s waters, you need to keep these words in mind. The seasons are transitioning from winter to spring, which means it won’t be long until warmer days and longer trips to area lakes become part of many people’s schedules.
As you plan for those future lake trips, keep this four-word mantra – clean, drain, dry, dispose – in mind. It has become a common phrase in boating circles because it applies to the control of several invasive aquatic species that have made headlines in recent years. Cleaning a boat thoroughly when it’s taken out of the water at the end of the day, draining all the water out of it and then, back at home letting the boat dry before it’s taken to another lake and disposing of unused bait are four important steps Missourians should incorporate into their boating routines. Though these steps may seem inconsequential to some, following this routine is vital to keeping Missouri’s waters healthy and free of invasive species.
Here are two examples of how this helps:
Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant that has caused problems in states where it has become established. This plant has been found in Missouri. One way it reproduces is through fragmentation – the process by which small stem fragments become new plants. It also reproduces by buds called turions and through tubers that are in sediment underwater. Boats that go through a hydrilla-infested area of a lake can pick up plant fragments and turions and – if the clean-drain-dry routine is not carried out – introduce hydrilla to new bodies of water on future trips.
Zebra mussels are another troublesome exotic species that boaters can help control by practicing the clean-drain-dry routine. Like hydrilla, zebra mussels have been found in Missouri, but the goal is to keep them from becoming widespread because these small mollusks, once established, can have huge negative impacts on natural habitats. The huge clusters they form can also cause problems for water pipes, boat motors and other man-made structures.
Zebra mussels can move from one body of water to another by attaching themselves to boat parts. They can also be transported as free-swimming larvae (veligers) in livewells, bilge water, bait buckets and engine cooling water systems. Once again, practicing the clean-drain-dry method can prevent zebra mussel transportation from occurring.
Here are the basics of cleaning, draining, drying, and disposing:
Clean: When a boat is taken out of the water, remove all plants, animals, mud and thoroughly wash all equipment, especially in crevices and other hidden areas. It should be noted that on many low-slung bass boat trailers, it’s necessary to trim the motor up in order to keep the lower unit from dragging on the ground when boat and trailer are pulled out of the water. As a result, the section of the lower unit immediately in front of the prop forms a reservoir which can hold up to a couple of cups of water. Once the boat is trailered, the motor cannot be lowered enough to drain this area. As a result, this area contains an overlooked bit of water that’s large enough to carry exotic stowaways. This could be prevented by giving this area extra attention in the form of a hot-water flush. If your boat or equipment was used in waters known to contain zebra mussels or if you found zebra mussels attached, use a hot (104 degree F) water spray.
Drain: Eliminate all water before leaving the area, including livewells and transom wells.
Dry: Once you get home, park your boat in the sun and allow sufficient time for your boat to completely dry before launching in other waters.
Dispose: All unused bait should be disposed of in a trash can, not dumped back into the water or dumped on shore near the water’s edge.
More information about how to keep Missouri waterways free of invasive species can be found at mdc.mo.gov.
Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.