Mussel Update

Proposed Rule Changes

Last night, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks hosted a public hearing on new rules aimed at controlling the spread of invasive mussels.

The new regulations include the following:

  • All out of state watercraft would need to be inspected by FWP prior to launch in any Montana waterbody.
  • All watercraft leaving Canyon Ferry and Tiber Reservoirs would need to be inspected.
  • All watercraft crossing the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin would need to be inspected.

Along with these new rules, FWP is increasing enforcement, instituting new penalties, and investing in public outreach and education programs.

If approved, these new rules will go into effect April 15 and violation of them will result in charges ranging from misdemeanor to felony depending on the severity of the infraction. Preventing the spread of invasive species has become a critical priority for wardens and enforcement personnel.

Public Comment

At last night’s public comment hearing, everybody in attendance was on the same page. Walleye anglers, flyfishermen, boaters, and aquatic recreationists all voiced their fears of invasive mussels and their desire to protect all waterbodies within Montana. Commenters emphasized the importance of thorough and frequent monitoring for mussel larvae to aid in early detection of any future infestations.

Individuals voiced their desire for increased enforcement and penalties that would strengthen the impact of the new rules.

Montana FWP is accepting public comments until March 17. Comments can be emailed to

What We Can Do

We can all help prevent the spread of invasive species by following the advice of Montana FWP: Inspect. Clean. Dry. 

Although the new rules are aimed at mussels which are typically spread by boats with internal compartments, drift boats and waders can transport invasive species like New Zealand mudsnails, didymo (rock snot), and whirling disease.

Before moving from one body of water to the next, please take the time to remove all vegetation from your equipment, hose it off, and let it dry. Let’s keep the fantastic resources we have free of invasive species!

conservation, fish wildlife and parks, invasive species, mussel
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  • How would this work with out of state anglers? Would we have to have the boat inspected prior to every launch? Even if we launch three or four days in a row in the same body of water. If we want to get an early start, will a FWP be available at the launch site bright and early? I’m not disagreeing with any new rule, just curious how it will effect is out of staters?

    • Braden Lewis
      March 15, 2017 1:34 pm

      My current understanding is that FWP is applying a “perimeter defense” strategy by situating check stations at each major highway into the state. These stations would be operated from dawn until dusk. Each out of state boater will be required to have their boat checked before launching in Montana. Once a boat has been inspected, the owner will be given proof of inspection. Once in the state, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t need to have you boat reinspected unless you were traveling between different bodies of water. For instance, if you were going to come fish the Missouri for a week, you’d get inspected once on your way into the state, but then you’d be good once you made it to Craig. However, if you then decided to go to the other side of the Continental Divide to fish the Blackfoot River, you would likely have to get your boat reinspected. FWP is still working out the particulars, but my overall impression from the public hearing was that they want to provide maximum protection to all waterways in the state with a minimum of inconvenience to boaters and anglers. In the end, I think we’d all willingly undergo some minor inconvenience to protect the waterways that we love so much.

  • Thanks, Braden!

    • Braden Lewis
      March 15, 2017 4:18 pm

      Jayden, you know a lot more about it than I do. Did I screw anything up or is there anything else you’d like to add?

  • Thanks for responding. Sounds like a good plan. I’m all for helping to keep waterways as clean and healthy as we can

  • Sounds like when I am coming up from southern Idaho I will be inspected at the rest stop north of Dell. Once done I am good to go. Thanks for the updates!

  • Braden hit all the important Points. The biggest “change” this year for locals will be for us who like to travel from east to west over the divide hauling a boat. There will be stations set up along the divide ( Lincoln, Mack Pass, Browning) to inspect you before launching in the west. This is in direct response to the invasive mussel larvae found in Tiber and Canyon ferry. Also, All boats coming from out of state are REQUIRED to be inspected prior to launch in MT. Making sure your boat is Clean, Drained and Dried prior to being inspected will greatly reduce the amount of time you are at the inspection station. Get those weeds off your anchor! Other than that, Business as usual on the MO. Thanks, HH!

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