Boat inspection stations will start opening Thursday around Flathead Lake to guard against the spread of aquatic invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels.
Both motorized and non-motorized vessels traveling into the Flathead Basin that have been used on waters outside the basin must be checked at official stations before launching in Flathead Lake.
Watercraft already within the basin as of March 16 do not require a new inspection. However, any boats that leave the basin for use on any other body of water must get a new checkup.
The inspection rule also applies to all watercraft entering the state or crossing west over the Continental Divide before launching in Montana waters.
The first certification station will open Thursday at the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1 office in Kalispell, 490 N. Meridian St. The station will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal inspectors will operate a check station at Ravalli starting Friday. Additional check stations will open across the basin in following days.
“Protecting the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem against the threat of aquatic invasive species is important for sustaining fishery resources into the future,” FWP Region 1 acting fisheries manager Sam Bourret wrote in an email. “The pilot program is part of FWP’s joint effort with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes to add further protections to the Flathead Basin.”
Any boats participating in CSKT's Spring Mack Days fishing tournament also must undergo an inspection. Checks will take place at Blue Bay starting Tuesday. The Mack Days fishing competition for invasive lake trout runs March 16 to May 13.
The West Shore State Park boat launch was damaged during the winter, and may not be repaired until late March. Ice currently blocks the boat launch at Big Arm State Park. Yellow Bay State Park’s floating dock will be installed as soon as ice clears there. Finley Point State Park will remain closed until Flathead Lake levels rise to their spring recreation levels. Wayfarers State Park is open, but its fixed dock also depends on spring lake levels.
Anyone carrying or towing any watercraft or water-based equipment — non-motorized and motorized — must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter in Montana. Inspections consist of a boater interview, a watercraft inspection and decontamination (if necessary).
To ensure a speedy inspection, clean, drain and dry all watercraft prior to arrival at a watercraft inspection station.
For more information about the CSKT AIS prevention program, visit CSKTnomussels.org.