What Out of Staters Need to Know About Boating in Montana

10:24 AM, Jul 26, 2021

Why visitors come to Montana:

  • Montana has fantastic fishing opportunities.
    • Nearly 1 million acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds for fishing
    • More than 15,000 miles of cold-water rivers and streams in Montana with world-class blue-ribbon trout fishing.
    • Fort Peck 134 miles in length and anglers fish for walleye, small mouth bass and chinook salmon.
  • Montana has divers boating opportunities
    • Paddlers enjoy more than 169,000 miles of rivers that include 388 miles of wild and scenic rivers on the Missouri and Flathead rivers.
    • Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in west of the Mississippi, visitors want to fish, boat, waterski, wakeboard and paddle.

AIS are bad:

  • AIS are invasive plants and animals that are not native to Montana and whose introduction causes harm to the state’s economy, environment, or human health.
  • AIS can flourish in new locations when there are no natural predators or environmental conditions to restrain them.
    • AIS reproduce rapidly and out-compete native species for food, water, and space.
  • AIS can have dramatic negative impacts on Montana waterways, native plant and wildlife species, boating and fishing opportunities, irrigation and ag production, hydropower, and water infrastructure systems.
  • Watercraft and water-based equipment like fishing gear are the most common vector for the transport of AIS and are the focus for prevention efforts.
  • Many AIS species have invaded other waters in the US and Canada that we want to keep out of our waters.
  • Examples include invasive quagga and zebra mussels, spiny water flea, invasive carp.

Non-Resident boaters/anglers can help protect MT waters:

  • Arrive Clean
    • Make sure your boats are free of mud, water, plants and animals before you travel.
      • A plant fragment can start a new infestation of invasive plants.
      • New Zealand mudsnails reproduce by cloning.
      • Some AIS are microscopic and can float unseen in bilge water (like mussel larvae).
      • Zebra & quagga mussels are particularly bad because they can attach to anything in the water, like boat hulls. They can survive out of water for up to 30 days.
    • Always clean and drain your boat and fishing gear at end of day. Allow time to dry before next outing.
  • Stop at all watercraft inspection stations (even if just passing thru MT and not launching)
    • Stations are the first line of defense to protect Montana waters from AIS.
    • Inspectors ensure watercraft are not transporting AIS into the state.
    • You help is needed during the inspection.
      • They check hull and trailer, internal compartments, bilges, live wells, anchor & line.
      • Pull drain plug make sure it’s drained.
      • Will ask you to raise and lower motor to ensure its drained and operate ballast pumps.
    • Inspector clean boats with hot water
      • No chemicals are used. Hot water can kill AIS plants and animals.
    • Stop at every station you encounter, allow time during your travels.
      • After the first inspection, other stops should be brief, but you must stop.
        • Failing to stop can result in a fine up to $500.
  • Anglers should clean fishing gear
    • AIS like spiny water flea can cling to fishing line, fowling the line.
    • AIS like New Zealand mudsnail, a tiny snail that clones, can hide in mud on bottom of wader boots.

Requirements for visitors bringing watercraft (motorized and nonmotorized) into Montana

  • Get your watercraft inspected before you launch
    • Montana law requires an inspection for any watercraft coming into the state.
    • For boaters traveling from east to west, Montana could be the first place you encounter a roadside inspection station.
  • Purchase the Vessel AIS Prevention Pass
    • Require if you launch on MT waters
      • $30 for any motorized boat (including trolling motor)
      • $10 for non-motorized boats (canoe, kayak, raft, drift boat, fishing pontoon boats, etc.)
      • Pass is valid for the year, until Dec. 31.
      • Purchase at any FWP office or online at CleanDrainDryMT.com
      • Pass can be printed or save a picture on cell phone (there is no decal).
  • Travel Clean, Drained and Dry!

Enjoy Montana and help preserve and protect the places where you fish and boat!

AIS Bureau | Montana FWP

1420 East Sixth Avenue

Helena, MT 59620
Phone: (406) 444-2440

FWP Watercraft Inspection Stations

About Brand Spotlight

Brand Spotlight offers useful, valuable information from select sponsors on these pages. This content is not produced or endorsed by this station.