The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is implementing two new emergency rules designed to prevent the spread of zebra mussels outside the Red River.
The rules are effective immediately and may affect anglers, boaters and other users of Red River water, according to Fred Ryckman, department aquatic nuisance species coordinator. The rules address recent discoveries of young zebra mussels, an aquatic nuisance species, throughout the length of the Red River between Minnesota and North Dakota. An adult zebra mussel was also discovered at the Fargo water treatment plant.
The emergency rules are as follows:
1. Anglers may no longer transport live bait in water away from the Red River. That means all water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore, or remove their boat from the water. Anglers must properly dispose of unused bait away from the river, as dumping bait in the water or on shore is illegal. In the rest of the state, anglers can transport live bait in water in containers of 5 gallons or less in volume.
2. All boats and other watercraft must have their plugs pulled when exiting the river, and plugs must remain pulled when the watercraft leaves the access area. In addition, all boats entering North Dakota must have their plugs pulled. This rule would also apply on any other waters where Class I ANS, including zebramussels, are discovered in the future.
Violators of either of these rules are subject to citation and fines, and Game and Fish will continue to monitor angler and boater activity on the Red to ensure compliance.
“These two new rules will significantly reduce the risk that any Red River water is transported to other lakes or rivers,” Ryckman said. “It is necessary to establish the rules now because there is a lot of fishing activity in the Red this time of year, and zebra mussel veligers or larvae are likely to be present in the river for several weeks yet.”
These new regulations will be posted at all ramps along the North Dakota side of the Red River, and are in addition to other statewide aquatic nuisance species rules that are already in place. These include:
· water must be drained from watercraft, including from livewells and bilges, prior to leaving a water body;
· all other fish species may not be held in water and/or transported in bait buckets/containers when away from a water body;
· no aquatic vegetation, or parts thereof, shall be in or on watercraft, motors, trailers and recreational equipment when out of water;
· all water must be drained from all watercraft and recreational, commercial, and construction equipment bilges and confined spaces, livewells and baitwells, when out of water or upon entering the state.
The official emergency rule language is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov. If zebra mussels are discovered in any additional waters, these rules would immediately go into effect for those waters as well.
Emergency changes to administrative rules become effective as soon as they are filed with the state’s legislative council, but must follow the administrative rule-making process, including public hearings, before the rules become permanent.
A public hearing to address the proposed amendments is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., Sept. 9 at the Game and Fish Department’s main office in Bismarck.