Department of Environmental Conservation

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Protect Your Waters from Aquatic Invasive Species

Clean. Drain. Dry.

New York State Boat Stewards are Entitled to Safety and Respect - DEC and its partners are committed to maintaining a safe workplace, and ask the public to treat boat stewards with respect. New York State does not tolerate harassment of any kind. Stewards are directed to report inappropriate behavior or treatment by anyone at the boat launch locations. We encourage members of the community to help stop harassment - please report misconduct or harassment to DEC, partner organizations, or local law enforcement as appropriate.

Watch a short video about how you can help us stop the spread of aquatic invasive species and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.
An person checking under a boat for invasive species
People checking a boat for invasive plants

Boats, trailers, waders and other fishing and boating equipment can spread aquatic invasive species from waterbody to waterbody unless properly cleaned, dried or disinfected after use. State law requires boaters to take these steps before launching their watercraft into public waterbodies. Although some invasive species such as Eurasian water-milfoil are readily visible to the human eye, many others are too small to be easily noticed. To avoid spreading invasive species please use the guidelines below:

  1. Check
  2. Clean
  3. Drain
  4. Dry
  5. Disinfect
  6. Visit your local boat steward


Check your boating and fishing equipment for invasive species.

  • Carefully examine common attachment points such as trailer bunks, axles, rollers, lights, transducer, license plate, and motor props for any plants, mud, or debris.
  • If your boat has been used in a waterbody known to have zebra mussels, run your hand along the hull. If it feels like sandpaper, it likely has mussels attached.
  • Also inspect all gear used during your trip, including fishing gear and anchor lines.


Clean any visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting equipment.

  • Discard materials in an upland area or in one of the invasive species disposal stations that have been installed at many boat launch sites for your convenience. Do not wash or release material into a waterbody.
  • Some invasive species, such as zebra mussels, can be difficult to remove from a boat hull. They first need to be killed by water or steam that is 140 degrees F, then they need to be removed by a brush or pressure washer. For help cleaning your boat and equipment, visit a decontamination station for a free boat wash (leaves DEC website).
  • Dump unused bait in trash cans and bucket water on dry land, not in the water.


Draining a boat

Drain all water holding compartments including ballast tanks, live wells, and bilge areas.

  • Drain your boat before you leave an access site.
  • Be sure to drain boat ballast tanks if your waterski or wakeboard has them.
  • Drain your live well if you have one.


Dry boats, trailers and all equipment before use in another waterbody. The most effective way to ensure that no invasive species or fish diseases are transported to a new body of water is to completely dry your boating and fishing equipment.

  • Drying times vary significantly depending on the type of equipment, air temperature, and relative humidity.
  • While the outside of a boat will dry relatively quickly, bilge, live wells, and other parts of a boat not reached by the sun or lacking good air circulation will take additional time to dry completely.
  • A minimum of 5-7 days drying time in dry, warm conditions is recommended.


Disinfect anything that came into contact with water if it cannot be dried before reuse.

Visit Your Local Boat Steward

To help protect New York's waters, boat stewards are located at various boat launches throughout the state. Boat stewards assist visitors with a free boat inspection to look for invasive species and they educate on the importance of cleaning, draining, and drying watercraft. They may also direct you to an on-site or nearby decontamination station. At decon stations, you may get your boat washed with high pressure hot water for free.

View our interactive map to find a boat steward or decontamination steward near you.

Additional Resources