Ice Fishing — A Sneaky Culprit For Spreading Invasive Species

It’s winter, I don’t have to worry about invasives! That’s a problem for summer time, right?

Nope! Believe it or not, winter sports like ice fishing are an overlooked avenue for invasive species to spread. Lots of people think that since native vegetation tends to die in the fall or winter time, that invasive species can’t spread during our cold, dark winter months. However, invasive larvae and plant material of certain species can survive in cold temperatures. To keep our rivers and lakes in pristine condition we need your help this winter!

How aquatic invasives spread from ice fishing

Invasive species can spread into our riparian areas from supplies outside of our waterways or from one contaminated water source to another. Live bait, contaminated tools like an auger blade, or other supplies like buckets and containers may hold tiny pieces of invasive material. Mud, debris, and plants can survive on your tools or under the ice in a contaminated lake. 

Specifically, larvae from invasive zebra mussels or invasive snails can survive in extreme conditions. Plus, eurasian water milfoil and curly leaf pondweed can stay hardy even in the winter in Teton County. 

If any of these invasive species were introduced to our water sources, it would have devastating ecological, environmental, and economic effects. Native fish, plants, and other aquatic life would be crowded out and the non-native species would take over. This would disrupt the local food chain and significantly alter our ecosystem. 

Zebra Mussels | Credit: Amy Benson – U.S. Geological Survey 

Action steps that ice fishers can take to protect our waterways from aquatic invasive species

Whether you’re spending the day at Jackson Lake or Lower Slide Lake, a few minutes of preventative action can preserve everyone’s fishing for generations to come. Ice anglers like yourself can help with these simple steps:

  • Inspect your boats, trailers, sleds, huts, underwater cameras, augers, drills, rods, reels, lines, buckets, and other equipment for plant material, mud, or debris. 
  • Remove unwanted material if you notice any contamination. You can either wash or wipe off your equipment before you bring it with you. Even a miniscule amount of mud could hold invasive species.
  • Drain water from any vehicle or equipment you use.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash or bring it home with you. Never dump it in the lake.

Remember to keep your gear clean if you’re moving from one lake to another in a short time. Even if you’re only fishing in Teton County, keep your gear fresh and invasives-free from one location to another!

If you see something unusual while you’re fishing, feel free to take a picture and send it to our staff at Teton County Weed and Pest. We would rather receive 100 pictures that turn out to be normal native species than for a local to not submit a picture and turns out to be a high priority invasive species . As the classic motto goes—better safe than sorry!

Thank you to all of our ice fishers who seek to protect our waterways.