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Check and clean ice fishing gear to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species

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With a high of only 8 degrees forecasted on Sunday and temperatures dropping below zero overnight, ice is starting to thicken up on lakes across the Northwoods.

As many anglers gear up for another ice fishing season, conservationists remind people to do their part to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Derek Thorn is the FLOW AIS Coordinator for Lumberjack RC&D serving Forest, Langlade, and Oconto Counties. He says while many plants do go dormant underwater as well, you can still drag invasives like Eurasian Water Milfoil and Curly Leaf Pondweed up on your fishing line or auger.

“You also have a couple snails that can be transferred through the mud during the wintertime. If a lake has it, the spiny water fleas can also persist in the mud through the larval state in the winter time,” said Thorn.

Invasive species can be determinantal to an environment.

“Some of the problems with invasive species are simply that they out compete native species. They can out compete native species for space and nutrients mostly. Invasive species don’t have a lot of competition, so they’re able to thrive and take over environments very quick,” said Thorn.

The good news is it’s fairly simple to stop these invasive species from spreading.

The biggest thing is cleaning off your gear before moving to a different lake or even a different section of the same lake.

Thorn recommends keeping a rag and some cleaner on hand to wipe things down. He says it can also help your equipment last longer.

“There are some people that go in and deep clean in disinfect all of their gear with a bleach solution and do that as well,” said Thorn. “Not only are you not moving invasives, but then you’re also keeping your gear in good condition, so things don’t break down and you get to keep your gear longer over a span of time.”

Thorn also encourages people to take the time to learn about the area you’re visiting.

“Whether it’s a waterbody you’re interested in or whether its state land, forest land, whatever, figure out what’s in that area as far as invasive species go and just take time to learn about what they do and how they interact with the native species," he said.

You can learn more about resources to fight AIS on the Lumberjack RC&D website.

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