Featured Article: “It’s 11 o’clock, do you know where your AIS are?”

by Lizzy Reitzloff, Rock River Coalition

Wisconsin recently got its first decent snowfall of the winter season, so it’s time to ask the age-old question, “It’s 11 o’clock, do you know where your AIS are?”. It can be tempting to think that with the dropping temperatures and ice, most of our aquatic organisms are simply dormant and overwintering in various nooks and crannies. While this is true of many species, ask any ice angler or stream biologist and you’ll hear all about how our local waterways are still actively teeming with life under the frigid surface.

As such, visitors and users of our waterways must continue to be vigilant about spotting and preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species even in winter. The two primary invasive aquatic plants of concern this time of year, curly-leaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil, can be especially tricky, because they can persist and even thrive in frigid aquatic environments.

Curly-leaf pondweed (left) and Eurasian watermilfoil (right). Photo credits: Addie Schlussel.

Both species can have significant impacts on the quality of fishing and recreation in our lakes and waterways. Both curly-leaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil can create thick mats that physically impede recreational activities, outcompete native species, negatively impact fish survival, and release phosphorus into the water when decomposing.

Equipment such as augers, fishing lines, and spears can easily disturb and snag on this vegetation and spread it to other locations if not cleaned properly. Even small fragments of Eurasian watermilfoil can grow into more plants. For these reasons, ice anglers should follow the same protocols as other boaters and anglers before leaving their fishing site:

  • Inspect boats, trailers and equipment for attached aquatic plant, animals or mud
  • Remove all attached plants or animals
  • Drain all water from boats, motors, livewells, buckets and other equipment
  • Never move live fish away from a waterbody
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash