With warmer weather and the Spring Mack Days fishing tournament approaching, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is resuming watercraft inspections for invasive mussels.
FWP is offering inspections at the agency’s Kalispell office during work hours Monday through Friday, with plans to offer weekend checks starting next month.
Invasive zebra and quagga mussels eat organisms at the bottom of the food chain, harming native fish species. They also latch onto hard surfaces, like pipes, where they can ruin infrastructure.
FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau Chief Tom Woolf says that can be avoided as long as boaters clean, drain and dry their craft after use, then get them inspected before entering another body of water.
“Our inspectors are there to verify boats are clean and dry, but really the big effort has to come from the public so that every time they remove a boat from the water they make sure it’s drained of all water and it’s clean,” Woolf said.
Other FWP inspection stations are expected to reopen in coming weeks and months. A Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes check station on Highway 93 near Ravalli will reopen Mar. 12, while the Blackfeet Nation’s Browning station will likely resume inspections starting mid-April or early May.
FWP says watercraft must be inspected if boaters are coming from out-of-state, west over the Continental Divide, from the Tiber Reservoir, or if they’re launching into the Flathead Basin after recently exiting other waters.
This week, FWP officials also found dead invasive mussels in home aquarium moss balls sold in multiple Montana pet stores. Those who have recently bought moss balls are advised to freeze them overnight and avoid dumping aquarium water down the drain and into Montana waterways.
FWP says the moss balls appear to have been imported from Ukraine, where they are endemic, to a distributor in California and were shipped to stores nationwide. Live mussels were found on moss balls in Oregon and Idaho.