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Requirements & Law
Help reduce the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species
Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are plants and animals that have been introduced into new ecosystems and have environmental, recreational, economic or health impacts. These invaders may damage equipment and compete with native species. Anglers and boaters may unknowingly introduce AIS into new waters.

Report AISStop aquatic hitchhikers by following these simple steps.

Check your equipment before leaving any body of water. Inspect every inch of your boat, trailer and fishing gear. Remove and leave behind plants, mud and aquatic life.

Areas of your boat to checkCheck your boat

  • Anchor and line
  • Motor lower unit
  • Hull
  • Trailer hitch, rollers, lights and axle
  • Life jackets
  • Swimming floats, water skis, wakeboards or tubes

Check your fishing gear

  • Shoes or boots
  • Clothing
  • Fishing vests
  • Fishing rod, reel and line
  • Hooks and lures
  • Tackle boxes


  • Visible plants
  • Fish or other aquatic animals
  • Mud and dirt

Do not transport any potential hitchhiker, even back to your home. Remove and leave them at the site you visited.

Drain water from all equipment before leaving the area you are visiting. Some species may live for months in water that has not been removed.


  • Motors
  • Jet drives
  • Live wells
  • Compartments
  • Boat hulls
  • Bilge
  • Shoes, boots and waders
  • Bait buckets
  • Life jackets
  • Swimming floats, water skis, wakeboards or tubes

Clean Your Gear graphicMany AIS can't be seen and are microscopic. It's important to clean your gear even if it doesn't appear to have anything on it. Follow the cleaning instructions below after the water has been removed.

Before going to another body of water, clean anything that came in contact with the water.

  • Use hot (140° F) water to clean your equipment.
  • Spray equipment with a high-pressure washer. If hot water is not available, a commercial hot water car wash also makes an ideal location to wash your boat, motor and trailer.

Or, dry everything before entering new waters. Allow equipment to dry to the touch, and then allow it to dry another 48 hours. Thick and dense material like life jackets and felt-soled wading gear will hold moisture longer, take longer to dry and can be more difficult to clean.

STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS. Do not transport any plants, fish or other aquatic life from one body of water to another. Do not release unused bait into the waters you are fishing. Dump unused bait in a trash can.

Aquatic Invasive Species
Asian Carp

Bighead, silver and black carp are Asian carp* that are Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS). It is unlawful to possess, introduce or import, transport, sell, purchase, offer for sale or barter these species in Pennsylvania. These species pose a significant threat to the biodiversity of native species and habitat, along with imposing safety risks to boaters.

Asian carp have had a devastating impact in the Mississippi River system and now pose this threat to the Great Lakes basin. As AIS species, these fish do not naturally occur in Pennsylvania waters and would only occur if transported and released.

These carp species are a threat due to there large size (some can grow to more than 100 pounds and five feet in length), reproductive success, habitat damage and large, year-round food consumption. In additon, silver carp, when startled, can jump up to 10 feet out of the water striking boaters, causing severe injury.

For more information and to report sightings or catches of these fish species and other AIS, visit PFBC’s AIS web page at:

*Grass carp are also known as Asian carp. Diploid grass carp are banned from stocking in Pennsylvania, but triploid (sterile) grass carp are allowed to be stocked in lakes and ponds with a PFBC-approved permit.

A Call to Action!
In response to the growing threat of nonnative aquatic species, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has developed a series of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Action Plans. These plans address the growing concerns of non-native species introductions into Pennsylvania’s waters. These invading species have a direct effect on our environment, economy and, sometimes, our health. Once these non-native species are introduced, they exploit their surrounding resources and directly affect the recreational sportfish populations, which then affect anglers and the recreational fishing industry.

Prevention is the key!

As a responsible angler, read these plans and learn to identify these species. The plans provide the blueprint for actions required to attain goals for the management of seven AIS in Pennsylvania. The action plans are living documents and will be updated to reflect progress toward those goals and to incorporate new information. If anglers or boaters see these invaders in Pennsylvania waters, report them to the Commission immediately, so we can respond rapidly and effectively. For more information, please visit the PFBC “Aquatic Invasive Species” web page at:

AIS Action Plans:

Asian Carp Complex:


Golden Alga:

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS):

Water Chestnut:

If you see Aquatic Invasive Species in Pennsylvania waterways, report them here:

Pennsylvania’s Crayfish Problem
Rusty CrayfishProblem: Seven species of crayfish have been introduced into Pennsylvania waters. Some are native to parts of Pennsylvania but have been moved to areas of the state that are outside of their native range; others are not naturally found anywhere in the state. Most species are difficult to tell apart and can only be reliably identified by crayfish experts. Human introductions, including the release or escape of fishing bait, aquarium pets, and classroom, laboratory and aquaculture species are responsible for most non-native invasions.

Impact: Crayfish introductions have resulted in the disappearance of native crayfish from many Pennsylvania waters. Non-native crayfish represent a significant threat because densities of these species can exceed 18 individuals per square foot and population sizes are often 10 times higher than their native counterparts. At such high densities, introduced crayfish often eliminate aquatic plants and consume large numbers of invertebrates such as mayflies, caddisflies, snails and midges. In addition, introduced crayfish tend to be less vulnerable to fish predation than native crayfish, because many introduced crayfish quickly grow to a size that reduces their susceptibility to predation, possess very large claws and are very aggressive. Introduced crayfish also consume fish eggs and can have negative effects on fish reproduction. The result for affected fish populations is often less food, decreased recruitment and reduced population sizes.

Prevention: Many Pennsylvania waters have not been invaded by introduced crayfish. To protect our waters and native crayfish, people are strongly encouraged not to transport any crayfish away from the water where they were collected.

Northern Snakehead vs. Bowfin
Northern Snakehead Bowfin
  • The northern snakehead is native to China, and possibly Korea and Russia.
  • Northern snakeheads grow to a maximum length of about 33 inches.
  • Generally tan in appearance, with dark brown mottling; body somewhat elongated; long dorsal fin; jaws contain numerous canine-like teeth (similar to pike or pickerel).
  • Capable of breathing air using an air bladder that works as a primitive lung (not found in most fish).
  • Able to hibernate in cracks and crevices during cold temperatures and to go dormant in the mud during droughts.
  • Voracious top-level predator, eating mostly fish, but also eats other aquatic wildlife and frogs.
  • Capable of moving short distances on land using its pectoral fins and can live out of water for as many as three days.
  • Species have been found in Pennsylvania, probably the result of releases from individuals.
  • Catch and release is strongly encouraged.
  • A candidate species in Pennsylvania.
  • Grows to a maximum length of about 32 inches.
  • Generally tan-olive in appearance, with dark olive reticulation; body somewhat elongated; long dorsal fin; bony scales; jaws contain small canine and peglike teeth; black spot at the base of the tail (more prominent in males).
  • Capable of breathing surface air using an air bladder as a lung (not found in most fish).
  • Able to withstand periodic droughts by going dormant in the mud.

Why Should You Care?
Invasive species like sna ke heads have significant impacts in the Pennsylvania, including:

  • Impacts to lo cal fish populations through predation or displacement and competition for food; disr uption of native aquatic systems.
  • Transmission of parasites or diseases, including those affecting humans.
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