Aquatic Invasive Species
Protect Nebraska's waters from aquatic invasive species.
What are aquatic invasive species?
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are exotic or non-native aquatic organisms that pose a significant threat to our aquatic resources, water supplies or water infrastructure. These organisms can be plants, fish, mussels, crayfish, invertebrates or pathogens. Visit NEinvasives.com to learn more about Nebraska’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program and species identification.
Key aquatic invasive species in Nebraska
The first documented presence of an established zebra mussel population was in 2006 at the Offutt Base Lake south of Omaha. The lake was treated with copper sulfate in 2008 and 2009 in an attempt to eliminate the population. The initial results appeared to be promising, but in the fall of 2010 adult mussels were found, and since then the zebra mussel population became re-established.
Populations of zebra mussels have subsequently been discovered at Zorinsky Lake in 2010 (this population was eliminated following a renovation) and at Lewis and Clark Lake in 2015.
White Perch are native to the east coast and were brought to Nebraska in the 1960s as an experiment to see if they would live in alkaline sandhill lakes. They were raised at the Valentine Hatchery and a stocking of largemouth bass in both Wagon Train and Stagecoach lakes south of Lincoln accidently contained white perch.
Over the years this species became established in those water bodies. Since white perch are related to white bass and look similar, anglers sometimes mistake the small perch as white bass and have moved them to other water bodies. This has promoted their spread to such lakes as Branched Oak and Pawnee. Since then catfish anglers have found them to be good bait.
At this time, regulations make it illegal to move live white perch from any waterbody for any purpose. This species has the capability to dominate a total fish community, virtually eliminating natural recruitment of most species and greatly reducing survival of hatchery stocked species. The only effective management solution is to eliminate the entire fish community in invaded waters using rotenone applications.
These Asian carp species are the best-known of the group. They gained access to the Mississippi River during flood events and have found their way to rivers of the Midwest. Due to their strong swimming and leaping ability, they can go over small barriers during flood events and gain access further upstream.
Expanding populations are having a negative impact on our native species, such as buffalo and paddlefish. In Nebraska, they have been found in the Missouri, Elkhorn, Platte and Loup rivers. While dams can prevent the movement of adults, concerns remain regarding unintentional movement of juveniles as baitfish. To address this, current seining restrictions in the eastern third of the state do not allow seined baitfish to be moved from where they were collected.
Rusty crayfish is one of several crayfish species that are listed as invasive species. Crayfish are being introduced into the wild via their illegal use as bait. Rusty crayfish have established populations in at least two urban ponds in Omaha, and recently a population was discovered in the Missouri River below Gavin’s Point Dam.
These species of submergent aquatic vegetation have the ability to out-compete native species. Curly-leaf pondweed appears early, grows fast and in clear water is found in depths over 10 feet. This causes access problems for both anglers and boaters. Due to its early growth, native species that appear later in the season are crowded out. As it dies off, decaying vegetation releases excess nutrients that promote algal blooms.
Eurasian Milfoil is just starting to expand in Nebraska and can be difficult to distinguish from our native milfoil. Both species can spread to other waterbodies through transport on boats and trailers.
Aquatic Invasive Species Categories
Four categories have been established for designated aquatic invasive species that are found in Nebraska. These categories can be changed upon Commission approval.
Category 1 invasive species are those that have not yet been sampled in Nebraska and are considered a high threat.
Currently listed as Category 1:
- Round Goby
- Snakehead (Federally banned)
- Black Carp
- New Zealand Mudsnail
- Giant Reed
- Brazilian Waterweed or Elodea
- Brittle Niad
- Didymo (Rock Snot)
- White River Crayfish
- Red Swamp Crayfish
Category 2 invasive species are those that are currently present in Nebraska but with limited distribution. They are considered highly unwanted species and all efforts should be taken to prevent the expansion of their population.
Currently listed as Category 2:
- Silver Carp
- Bighead Carp
- White Perch
- Yellow Bass
- Asian Clam
- Zebra Mussel
- Rusty Crayfish
- Curly-leaf Pondweed
- Flowering Rush
- Eurasian Watermilfoil
- Yellow Floating Heart
- Creeping Water Primrose
Category 3 invasive species are those that are well established in Nebraska and total elimination is impossible. Local removal and control is the best that can be expected.
Currently listed as Category 3:
- Common Carp
- European Rudd
- Chinese Mystery Snail
- Japanese Mystery Snail
- Common Watercress
- Reed Canary Grass
- Narrow-leaf Cattail
Category 4 invasive species are those that are regulated by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture as noxious plant species.
Currently listed as Category 4:
- Eurasian Common Reed (Phragmites)
- Salt Cedar
- Purple Loosestrife
Help prevent aquatic invasive species
Purchase an AIS Stamp
All resident and non-resident boaters are required to pay a fee to fund programs aimed at combating aquatic invasive species.
Boaters who register their motorized watercraft in Nebraska are required to pay $5 in addition to their three-year boater registration fee. Boaters who register their motorized watercraft in any other state will be required to obtain a $15 Aquatic Invasive Species Stamp each year that they boat in Nebraska. This stamp is available for purchase online. A temporary stamp may be purchased at some state parks and recreation areas.
Clean, drain and dry your watercrafts
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission annually samples dozens of lakes for early sign of zebra mussels. It also not only inspects watercraft for invasive species each year, but in 2022, it set a record by inspecting more than 6,000 watercraft.
Aquatic hitchhikers like zebra mussels can live up to two weeks out of water, and several lakes across the Midwest are first noticed to be infested by people removing boats, lifts and docks for the winter.
Game and Parks regulations require anglers, hunters and boaters conduct clean, drain and dry procedures before leaving a water body and are not allowed to arrive at a water body with any water from another water body.
Report aquatic invasive species
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission relies heavily on the public for help preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. In addition to cleaning, draining and drying your watercrafts, we need your assistance reporting aquatic invasive species found in Nebraska.
Report any suspected observation of zebra mussels or other aquatic invasive species to Nebraska Game and Parks at 402-471-7602 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aquatic invasive species introductions
Aquatic invasive species were introduced to new environments in a variety of manners, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by mistake. Some species, such as common carp, were introduced intentionally because immigrants desired them as a food source. Plant species were often initially introduced for landscaping purposes. Some species were introduced for commercial purposes and not intended to be release into the wild.
In early years of fishery management, a popular stocking method was to stock a wide variety of fish to determine what worked. White perch, a species that has caused considerable problems in the eastern third of Nebraska, was introduced in this manner. The baitfish trade has been a source of introduction for species such as the rusty crayfish, red swamp crayfish, European rudd and the central mudminnow. The pet trade also introduces new species unintentionally. Snakehead, Asian clams and mystery snails were introduced in the United States when pet owners disposed of them in public waters. Exotic species such as pacu and piranha have been collected in Nebraska waters, though fortunately neither species can survive our winters.
Lastly, unintentional introduction through transport accounts for the many invasive species introductions. These organisms usually hitch hike on materials shipped from other countries or in the ballast waters of ships in the Great Lakes or ports along our coasts. The Great Lakes have been a major introduction location for many organisms such as zebra mussels and round goby.
Invasive species regulation in Nebraska
The 2012 Nebraska Legislature passed a bill that created the Nebraska Invasive Species Council and gave the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission ability to establish regulations to prevent the introduction and spread of listed aquatic invasive species.
The main emphasis of these regulations targets species that can be spread via boats and trailers. Most of the regulations pertain to Commission authority to conduct boat inspections and decontaminations. Anglers and boaters are not allowed to arrive at a waterbody with any water that is not from a domestic source or to leave with any non-domestic water. In addition, they must conduct clean, drain and dry procedures to also remove any mud and vegetation that maybe attached prior to leaving. The disposal of baitfish prior to leaving an AIS contaminated water body may also be required to prevent the movement of unwanted species via a bait bucket.
Purchase stamps, resident and non-resident fishing permits here.