After careful consideration of safety and environmental precautions, and upcoming rulemaking proposals, all 58 open-water fishing contests set for this season in Montana will be allowed to occur, the Joint Mussel Response Implementation Team announced today.
Montana Mussel Response Incident Command watercraft protocols recommend rules for mandatory inspections of all boats and equipment entering the state before launching on any Montana waterbody.
Additionally, all boats leaving invasive mussel-detected waters would be inspected – and decontaminated when necessary – upon leaving those waters. There will also be additional restrictions and inspections to prevent the spread of invasive mussels.
Among the approved fishing contests are five scheduled on waters where invasive mussels have either been detected or are suspected to be present.
“With these recommended rules in place, rules that would apply to all watercraft, not just boats in fishing tournaments, the Joint Mussel Response Implementation Team believes people can continue to recreate safely on Montana waters and that fishing contest can take place,” said Randy Arnold, co-commander of the team.
By existing Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks rules, each contest sponsor is responsible for notifying participants that boats and trailers must be cleaned before and after the event to prevent the transport and introduction of aquatic invasive species to Montana waters.
“That will be especially important this year and for years to come,” said Eileen Ryce, FWP’s fisheries division administrator. “We’re in the process of alerting each contest organizer to expect additional boat and equipment cleaning requirements.”
In October 2016, Montana’s first-ever detection of invasive aquatic mussel larvae showed up in Tiber Reservoir – and “suspect” detections turned up in Canyon Ferry Reservoir, the Missouri River below Toston Dam, and the Milk River.
One fishing contest – the Tiber Walleye Tournament – is set for May 20-21 on Tiber Reservoir. Four others will take place on Canyon Ferry Reservoir – the Canyon Ferry Carp Safari, June 10; the Canyon Ferry Walleye Festival, June 24-25; the Broadwater Rod and Gun Club Walleye Derby, July 15; and the Camp Mak-A-Dream Walleye Benefit, Aug. 12. In all, more than 400 boats are expected to be launched during these the contests.
“We’ve scrutinized each application with care and with an eye toward the recent invasive mussel developments,” Ryce said. “We believe these contests can be held safely with additional restrictions that further protect the fishery. It’s not going to be business as usual and the anglers and the contest organizers recognize that.”
Ryce said FWP will be on hand at the Tiber and Canyon Ferry contests to ensure boats are properly decontaminated upon leaving the water.
Earlier this month, the Montana Mussel Response Team removed temporary emergency restrictions on the launch or removal of all boats, docks and other structures for Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs. The restrictions, in effect for about six weeks as a precaution against spread of invasive mussels, were in place until ice-up on both reservoirs. Winter is a low-risk season for transmitting mussels from one waterbody to another since neither invasive zebra and quagga mussels reproduce when water temperatures drop below 48 degrees. The movement of boats, docks and other structures is also minimal in winter.
The new joint team, which includes staff members from FWP, DNRC and other agencies, is considering options for how to further minimize the risk of spreading mussels from Canyon Ferry and Tiber to other waters, and to help assess whether to extend or implement other restrictions following ice breakup in spring.
Ryce urged all boaters and anglers across the state to take year-round precautions and to Clean, Drain and Dry their equipment properly after each use. For more information visit musselresponse.mt.gov or Montana Mussel Response on Facebook.