IF YOU look at the average boat trailer sitting at a landing these days, you soon discover just how big these boats have become and that the majority are transported on bunk trailers with no rollers.

While the faster, more stable and luxurious watercraft are great for anglers, boaters and the dealers selling them, they do pose more risk when it comes to spreading aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Bunk trailers have more surface area touching the bottom of the boat, which means more area for aquatic plants and animals to locate where they can’t be detected. And if you do detect weeds or parts of plants, they are firmly pinched and difficult to remove entirely.

That reality is just another reason why anglers and boaters should be cautious when jumping from lake to lake, and landing to landing. Every boat owner needs to think about what they might be incidentally transporting when they leave a body of water.

They say variety is the spice of life, and so it is for anglers in early July when there are so many choices on what species to chase and what lakes to fish.

We’ve got a rich history of sport fishing in the Badger State, and the angling community has never been more mobile than it is today. The modern equipment of the information age makes it easier to study lakes thoroughly, long before you arrive.

Add to that better vehicles, roads and boat landings and you’ve got fewer obstacles than ever before to learning new lakes and new hot spots for fish. That makes it easy to move around, to fill up a limit or to find cooperative fish.

Let’s say you hit North Twin early for walleyes, head to the Eagle Chain for some crappie action and then finish up the day catching the rest of your daily walleye limit on Butternut Lake.

Sounds like a plan. Similar scenarios are played out again and again this time of year as anglers make the most of their days.

It’s called lake jumping and it’s an inseparable part of Wisconsin’s fishing tradition. 

The trend has become even more common since tribal spearing gave us three-walleye bag limits, where anglers are forced to change lakes in order to harvest five walleyes—still the daily bag limit statewide.

But at no time in history has the practice become more controversial or more dangerous because of the increased chance of spreading aquatic invasive species to uninfested waters.

The lake-jumping scenario involving North Twin, the Eagle River Chain and Butternut is as real as any, and also a cause for alarm. North Twin and the downstream portion of the 28-lake Chain of Lakes contain Eurasian water milfoil (EWM).

Butternut has so far been protected from milfoil, but it has the spiny water flea, another invasive that can threaten the food chain and cause equipment issues for anglers.

EWM appears to be the fastest-spreading invasive species. It’s a huge problem because the aggressive exotic chokes out native species and forms dense mats at the water’s surface, hampering navigation, skiing and swimming.

The most recent Department of Natural Resources (DNR) study shows almost 90% of the boat owners who reported moving their boats to different water bodies actually checked their trailers, propellers, anchors, ropes, livewells and bait buckets for weeds.

But the battle is ongoing and far from being won because it only takes one careless angler or boater to pick up an invasive species in a livewell or on a trailer and transport it to another lake.

Because one of every 10 anglers is still a potential hazard to our water resources, town lakes committees are coordinating boat inspection programs at landings throughout the area. Their purpose is twofold: hands-on prevention and public awareness.

My plea to anglers and other boaters is one for tolerance and patience. If we really care about the lakes and the fisheries in them, there is no room for defying a simple request to check over a boat and trailer.

The only thing they’re enforcing is a personal conviction to keep exotic species out of the lake. We should be admiring that, not criticizing it.

A state law makes it illegal to transport any kind of aquatic vegetation while traveling roads and highways. Anglers should drain all water from their boats in order to prevent the spread of any invasives.

It is the job of every boat owner to know if they are navigating on waters known to contain invasives. That’s what triggers a more aggressive approach to cleaning off weeds and draining water. It’s important we keep the bad weeds where they are.

Here’s a list of 30 lakes that are known to contain invasive milfoil: Anvil, Arrowhead, Big, Boot, Big Sand, Brandy, Clearwater, Forest, Kentuck, Lac Vieux Desert, Long, Lost, North and South Twin, Middle Gresham, Upper Gresham, Upper Buckatabon, Little St. Germain, Silver, Smoky and 10 lakes on the Eagle River Chain — Cranberry, Catfish, Voyageur, Eagle, Scattering Rice, Otter, Lynx, Duck, Yellow Birch and Watersmeet.

Anyone fishing Lake Metonga in Crandon, which harbors invasive zebra mussels, would be entirely irresponsible if they went to any other lake without cleaning and disinfecting their equipment. Zebra mussels are harder to detect and to wash off than vegetation.

This issue is a serious one for careless lake jumpers could someday destroy the sport of fishing as we have known it for decades. Anglers who choose this tactic for maximizing their opportunities need to act with extreme caution.

Carelessness also comes with a hefty price tag. Wisconsin has spent tens of millions of dollars treating invasive weeds that were matting on the surface, where they affect navigation and increase the potential for being spread to other waterbodies.

Once you have safely launched your exotics-free boat, good luck with the fishing!