It never used to be the norm to pull the drain plug on boats and drain the water and any critters that may be present – everyone just kept them in. But, through education and awareness, this practice has changed. In 2017, Lake of the Woods (LOW) Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff reported that only 2% of boaters entering LOW had not pulled their plug. The SWCD has been coordinating an Aquatic Invasive Species Inspection Program since 2016, in partnership with Roseau SWCD, to provide Watercraft Inspectors on the southern shore of Lake of the Woods. Inspectors work at local boat accesses. Their role is to inspect watercraft entering and exiting our waters to make sure they are free from debris that could transport invasive plants or animals. They educate boaters about ways to clean their boats and prevent transport of invasive species, one of which is to pull the plug and let the boat drain up on high land so any invasives catching a ride are eliminated before the boat is launched into another waterbody. The inspectors also interview boaters to collect data that are used in managing the spread of invasives. Knowing where boaters are coming from and where they are headed can help manage the spread of invasives through targeting our education efforts or even knowing what new invasives to watch out for.
Where is the majority of boat traffic coming from? Based on interviews conducted by the AIS Inspectors, LOW SWCD saw that in 2017, nearly 86% of boaters came from within Minnesota. The remaining 14% traveled to Lake of the Woods from out of state, but, of that almost half of the out-of-state traffic was from North Dakota.