Kayaking and the A.I.S.

Checking all of the fasteners on the Slayer.
     Today is a maintenance day over here at Shorebound Hero Kayak Guide Service.  I've been crazy busy lately taking out clients, aligning sponsors for the 2016 season, and booking speaking engagements.  On top of that I still have the "Day Job" of running a state publishing and distribution center as well as trying to be an involved husband/father for my lovely wife and two active kids.  As I was going through the gear in my garage I found that I had a surprising amount of weeds still in the bottom of my kayak from earlier this week.  Why does this matter?  Because of AIS, that's why.
A DNR wader cleaning station.
      Last Tuesday night was the monthly meeting of the Southern Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  One of the speakers that evening was from the River Alliance of Wisconsin and he was talking about AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species).  Part of his talk covered the use of wader cleaning stations around the Driftless area.  The question he was interested in having answered was, "Is anybody actually using them?"  This turned into a talk about what we can do as anglers to help stop AIS from spreading around the state.  To be honest I didn't give it much thought until I was out fishing the following morning.
     I had invited Tristan the fishing manager from Orvis of Madison out for a little urban run and gun in pursuit of bass and carp.  While we were out he brought up what the speaker had said the night before about buying a second pair of waders and boots to help stop the spread of AIS in Wisconsin waters.  More specifically he was talking about how everybody almost seemed to laugh at the idea.  He wondered whether or not people cared enough about the waters they fished.  "Would they be willing to change their habits as anglers?" he said, "Would they be willing to reach for their wallets if it meant keeping the waters they call home healthy?"  Tristan is probably the smartest guy I know in real life and he recently wrote a great post probing deeper into this thought over at the Caddis Hypothesis.  I read the post on break at work last night and when I finished it, the wheels in my head started turning.
     I travel quite a bit doing the things that I do.  Just this season my kayak has been in 15 different bodies of water.  Some of these waters are known to have AIS issues.  Zebra mussels, asian carp, New Zealand mud snails, and curlyleaf pondweed are just a few of the AIS species that my kayak could have came into contact with this summer alone.  I began wondering if I'm doing enough to make sure those aquatic hitchhikers don't follow me home.  Then in the garage this morning I found those weeds in my kayak and I started to worry.
Take the time to thoroughly clean your boat after each fishing trip.
     Now before you judge me, know that I don't purposely turn a blind eye to the issue.  I always wash my kayak thoroughly when I get back from fishing anywhere other than the Madison Chain of Lakes.  I also clean it with a bleach solution and allow it to dry completely for 4-5 days before I drop it back in my home waters.  Still after hearing the speakers at the Trout Unlimited meeting, I'm wondering if that's enough.
     Aquatic invasive species are a serious threat to all bodies of water nationwide.  Their presence also raises a lot of questions about an anglers responsibility to the waters that they love.  What about you?  What things are you doing as an angler to help prevent the spread of AIS?  Do you own two sets of waders?  Clean your boats with bleach?  Maybe you have some other tips that may help your fellow anglers keep invasive species at bay?  Leave a comment below and let me know.  If you want more information about AIS issues in your area check out the DNR website for your state.
     Tight Lines.

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