/ Opinions / It’s up to us all

It’s up to us all

May 15, 2020 by Ted Rulseh

Clean Boats, Clean Waters training sessions have become to some extent casualties of the coronavirus. There likely will be fewer of them, and in Vilas County, for example, attendance will be limited to eight people. 

That’s no reason for those of us who are anglers and boaters to relax about inspecting and cleaning our boats and trailers to help keep invasive species in check. There’s more to this than just taking a moment to pull obvious weeds off our equipment.

If we want to do it right, there’s a whole series of steps we need to follow. The basics are: Clean, Drain, and Dry — but that tends to oversimplify matters.

De-weeding means getting down on the ground and looking under the trailer for hitchhikers on the trailer rungs and around the wheels. For removing hard-to-reach weeds, a tool like the ones road cleanup tools use to pick up litter is handy to have. It makes the job easier, and the easier the job, the more likely we are to do it carefully and completely. A flashlight can help, too.

Weeds can also hang on the motor and propeller, inside the trailer wheel wells (if any), on the trailer hitch, on the anchor and anchor rope, and elsewhere. 

Cleaning can also involve decontamination — going over the equipment with a bleach solution or hitting it with a hot-water pressure washer to take care of small invasives like spiny water fleas or zebra mussel larvae (veligers) that might be clinging. This step is essential if you’ve been on lakes with known infestations of those species. (For those worried that bleach might harm the finish on an expensive boat, experience shows that it doesn’t.)

Draining means getting the water out of livewells, aerators, the motor cooling system, and the bilge. It’s advisable to take out the stern plug so bilge water drains away as you drive. If your bait bucket contains any lake water, that has to be replaced, too. 

Finally, boats should be given time to dry thoroughly before being taken to another lake or river. The length of drying time varies with temperature and humidity conditions and on whether the boat has been in a lake with a known zebra mussel or spiny water flea population.

There isn’t enough room here to go into every detail of boat inspection and cleaning. It’s a great idea to take a Clean Boats Clean Waters training course, but if those are in short supply this summer, and of a number of online tutorials can help serve the same purpose.

Coronavirus safer-at-home orders in force, and general wariness about catching or spreading the disease, clean-boats inspectors may be in shorter supply than usual at our boat landings. That means we all have to be more vigilant and knowledgeable on our own.

For information on local training sessions, contact Cathy Higley at [email protected] or Stephanie Boismenue at [email protected]

wi.us. Remember, if we can’t do what’s necessary to keep our boats from spreading invasives, then we forfeit our right to complain about industrial polluters or others whose bad behavior puts our resources in jeopardy.

Ted Rulseh resides on Birch Lake in Harshaw and is an advocate for lake protection and improvement. His Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News columns are the basis for a book, “A Lakeside Companion,” published by The University of Wisconsin Press. Ted may be reached at [email protected]

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