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How to Keep Your Vessel and Waters Clean of Invasive Species

Invasive species such as mussels can attach to boats and hinder performance and your boat's life, end up in engine-cooling components, causing failure, and obstruct water lines causing system failure and costing the boat owner lot to repair. Here are tips, steps, and resources to help keep your boat and our waterways clean of destructive invasive species.

Boats, trailers, waders, and other fishing and boating equipment can spread aquatic invasive species throughout bodies of water unless properly cleaned, dried, or disinfected after use. Boaters should practice these steps before launching their watercraft into public water bodies. Although some invasive species, such as the Eurasian watermilfoil, are readily visible to the human eye, many others are too small to be easily seen. Take these steps to keep your boat and our waters clean of invasive species.

  1. Inspect your boat.

Check your boating and fishing equipment for invasive species.

  • Carefully inspect standard attachment points such as trailer bunks, axles, rollers, lights, transducers, license plates, and motor props for any plants, mud, or debris.
  • Run your hand along the hull if your boat has been used in a waterbody known to have zebra mussels. If it feels like sandpaper, it likely has mussels attached.
  • Also, inspect all gear used during your trip, including fishing gear and anchor lines.


  1. Clean your boat.

Clean any visible mud, plants, fish, or animals before hauling equipment.

  • Toss materials in an upland area or invasive species disposal stations if installed at your boat launch site. Do not wash or release material into the water.
  • Some invasive species, such as zebra mussels, can be challenging to remove from a boat hull. They must first be killed by water or steam at 140 F. Then they need to be removed by a brush or pressure washer. For help cleaning your boat and equipment, visit the CDFW website.
  • Dump unused bait in trash cans and bucket water on dry land, not in the water.


  1. Drain all water.

Drain all water-holding containers, including ballast tanks, live wells, and bilge areas.

  • Drain your boat before you leave an access site.
  • Drain boat ballast tanks if your waterski or wakeboard has them.
  • Drain your live well if you have one.


  1. Dry your boat.

Dry boats, trailers, and all equipment before use in another waterbody. The most effective way to guarantee that you don’t transport invasive species or fish diseases to a new body of water is to dry your boating and fishing equipment completely.

  • Drying times vary significantly depending on the type of equipment, air temperature, and relative humidity.
  • While the outside of a boat will dry relatively quickly, bilge, live wells, and other parts of a boat not reached by the sun or lacking good air circulation will take longer to dry completely.
  • A minimum of 5-7 days of drying time in dry, warm conditions is recommended.


  1. Disinfect your boat.

Disinfect anything that comes into contact with water if it cannot be dried before reuse.

  • Hot water is an effective disinfection agent for all aquatic invasive species and fish diseases. Soak all equipment in water at least 140 F for 30 seconds.


  1. Visit your steward.

To help protect your waters, boat stewards are located at various boat launches throughout the state. Boat stewards assist visitors with a free boat inspection to look for invasive species and educate you on the importance of cleaning, draining, and drying your watercraft. They may also direct you to an on-site or nearby decontamination station. In addition, you may get your boat washed with high-pressure hot water at decon stations for free.

For more on invasive species, what they do, and how to clean and prevent them, visit To find a California aquatic species vessel inspection steward near you, please visit

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