Texas freshwater boat-drain rule to curb invasives takes effect July 1

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Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

The onslaught of invasive zebra mussels — which can have serious economic and recreational impact to Texas reservoirs — has caused state officials to approve a number of regulations, the most notable of which takes effect July 1 statewide.

Beginning that day, all boaters must drain all water from their crafts and on-board receptacles before leaving or approaching a body of freshwater. The regulation applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, including personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks and canoes, or any other vessel used on public waters.

The regulation requires the draining of livewells, bilges, motors and any other receptacle or water-intake systems.

Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported from the water body where the fish were caught in or aboard a vessel in water from the water body where the fish were caught. Personally caught live bait can be used in the water body where it was caught.

Anglers are allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait if they have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body can only be used as bait on that same water body.

Anglers participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body may transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, but all water must be drained and properly disposed of before leaving that location. Anglers are required to possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that identify them as participants in the tournament.

Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day does not require draining, and there is an exception for governmental activities and emergencies. Marine sanitary systems are not covered by these regulations.

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