Clean Angling Practices

Practice Clean Angling & Protect Wisconsin’s Rivers from Invasives

Coldwater anglers – do you know when you are at risk of transporting invasive species between waterbodies? You pose the greatest threat when you use felt soles or travel out of state. Use this flow chart to decide what measures you should take to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Frequently Asked Questions

On a typical day of fishing in southwest Wisconsin, I fish three or four streams, maybe more. Do I really need to disinfect my gear after fishing each one?

New Zealand mudsnails were recently discovered in the Driftless Area and are notorious for being transported on the waders and boots of anglers from one stream to another. Other invasives that detract from the fishing experience (such as Wild Parsnip, Reed Canary Grass, and Japanese hops) spread between popular fishing spots via seeds on wading boots. It is Wisconsin state law that you inspect and remove all mud, plant material, and water from your equipment prior to leaving a waterbody, or face a stiff fine. As our streams are presently free of Didymo you are not required (at this time) to bleach your waders and boots between streams.

How can I possibly remove all of the dirt from my waders and boots when hopping from stream to stream?

One simple way anglers can limit the spread of invasive species between streams is to carry a stiff synthetic scrub brush in your vehicle or wader bag. Just prior to moving to another stream, take a minute to brush off your boots and waders. This doesn’t guarantee that you won’t transmit invasives to a new stream, but it is all about minimizing risk, and if you care about protecting the streams you fish, you need to do your part to ensure you’re practicing clean angling. If you wish to more thoroughly clean your gear, use a pump-sprayer filled with clean tap water to rinse your waders and boots AFTER you’ve given them a good scrubbing with a brush.

I have a trip planned to Montana this summer. Many of the rivers I plan to fish are infested with AIS. What should I do to prevent further spreading this stuff?

While fishing out west, if possible, plan to visit uninfested rivers first. Ask guides or shops which rivers are infested with invasive species—they will know. After fishing an infested river, you are at a HIGH RISK of spreading invasive species on your gear! HIGH RISK anglers should follow one of the three decontamination recommendations on the right in the figure below: soak gear in a mild bleach solution for ten minutes, freeze gear, or let gear dry for five days minimum. Upon returning to Wisconsin, it is IMPERATIVE that you follow those same steps. Or do as many others do, keep a pair of waders and boots for strictly fishing in Wisconsin and another for out-of-state fishing, which is the safest bet, but shouldn’t preclude your disinfecting your gear.

I refuse to give up my felt-soled wading boots. Felt is not the only culprit and if I fall in a river, my fishing days are done. What steps can I take to minimize the risk of my spreading AIS on my felt-soled boots?

The most important thing to remember is that felt takes a long time to dry, it is difficult to clean and often disinfection solution does not fully penetrate the felt to kill invasives. This is why rubber is the better option when it comes to preventing the spread of invasives! However, if you must use felt, you should use a pressure sprayer (like the small herbicide applicators) and a stiff-bristled scrub brush to clean the felt the best you can when moving between Wisconsin streams.

What should I do if I see something suspicious in Wisconsin waters that I think might be invasive?

The best thing you can do is take a picture of the suspicious plant, animal or algae and email it to the River Alliance of Wisconsin at [email protected], or report it to your local Wisconsin DNR biologist for identification.


Clean angling practices & FAQ (PDF)

Video: Clean Angling demonstration

Video: New Zealand Mudsnail ecology and fishing gear decontamination (Great Lakes New Zealand Mud Snail Collaborative)


Additional Information: