Confusion Over AIS/ANS Regs

Laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species — or aquatic nuisance species, as they’re called in North Dakota — have generated angler confusion pretty much everywhere they’re introduced, but an upcoming proposal in Montana appears to take that to a new level.

A news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks indicates the proposal from the Montana Department of Agriculture has led some anglers to believe live bait will be banned on Fort Peck Reservoir and the Missouri River.

Not so, a department spokesman said.

“It certainly has the office phones ringing, but it’s not something under consideration,” Ron Aasheim, a spokesman for FWP in Helena, Mont., said in the news release.

The confusion results from the MDA’s proposal, set for release in April, designating Fort Peck Reservoir and lower reaches of the Missouri River as “invasive species management areas” because of the presence of Eurasian milfoil. According to the news release, the designation establishes mandatory boat inspections and also prohibits possessing any dead or alive “bait animal” — including leeches, crawlers and minnows — unless otherwise authorized by FWP.

As written, it’s understandable that anglers would interpret the proposal as banning live bait.

“That’s the point of confusion,” Aasheim said. “To be clear, FWP is not proposing rules to ban the use of any bait allowed in the fishing regulations. FWP will, however, work with MDA to address the issue and to develop a rule that allows the use of live bait while still reducing the risk of spreading milfoil.”

For better or worse, confusion over regulations is the new reality as natural resources agencies across the country work to battle the spread of invasive species. Look no further than the Red River, where it’s no longer legal to bring a frozen goldeye from the North Dakota side of the river into Minnesota, even if it came from the Red in the first place. Bring a frozen goldeye from Minnesota into North Dakota, though, and you’re perfectly fine.

Times are changing in the world of fishing regulations, and anglers are in for a rocky few years as they struggle to keep up with all the changes.