Threats to Arkansas’ fish and water are lurking under the surface in the form of nonnative plants and animals. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission needs boaters’ help in stopping their spread.
Invasive plants, animals and other creatures may seem like small problems at first. Together, they account for more than $120 billion in damage to the nation annually. Affecting recreation, such as fishing and boating, is only one way these nuisance species cost Americans money. They impact public utilities, tourism, aquaculture and agriculture as well.
No one wants to see their favorite lake overtaken with a green mat of impenetrable weeds, but it has happened in some states. Some of the worst culprits are already in Arkansas.
Matt Horton, aquatic nuisance species program coordinator with Game and Fish, said 36 aquatic nuisance species have been documented in Arkansas, including plants, fish, mussels and other types of organisms. Some of the more well known species include giant salvinia, silver carp, northern snakeheads and zebra mussels.
“Louisiana spends well over $1 million per year fighting giant salvinia, a plant that has been found recently in Arkansas,” Horton said.
Here are some ways everyone can fight aquatic nuisance species in Arkansas.
- Clean, drain and dry. Invasive species spread through unintentional introductions when they hitch a ride on a boat, motor, trailer or fishing and hunting equipment. Taking a minute to wash off debris, remove vegetation and allow your boat and equipment to thoroughly dry can kill off those hitchhikers before they reach a new destination.
- Pull the plug. Pull the drain plug from your boat to ensure all water has drained.
- Leave bait behind. Live bait is the best way to get a bite when you take a fishing trip, but those minnows you’re using may not be minnows after all. The water they are in also could harbor pathogens or bits of harmful aquatic plants that aren’t native to the lake or stream where you are fishing.
Because of this, Game and Fish prohibits movement of live-caught bait, including crayfish, between bodies of water.
- Observe and Report. Anglers and other boaters can help fight aquatic nuisance species by knowing what to look for and letting Game and Fish as soon as they spot a possible infestation.