What Vilas County Lakes have Aquatic Invasives?



5/22/20 Update - The link to the Vilas County lakes has been updated to the DNR website page where they have current information. Natural Lakes CBCW activities were cancelled for Memorial Day weekend at the direction of the DNR. No future dates are currently scheduled.


Clean Boats Clean Waters (CBCW) is a Wisconsin and Michigan state-wide DNR initiative to combat the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in our waterways. CBCW inspections at Vilas County boat landings started in 2004 and now interact with over 140,000 boaters each year.


If you think this is a minor issue, think again. There are seven pages of Vilas County lakes with AIS. The DNR have priority classifications for lakes that harbor high priority AIS and some of these lakes are very close to Natural Lakes (NL). Click on the following links for the DNR information:


Lakes with Aquatic Invasive Species in Vilas County

Priority AIS Lakes in Vilas County

Map of Priority AIS Lakes in Vilas County


DNR research and statistics point to humans as the primary means of spreading AIS. Education on clean boats, and proper tackle and bait practices are proving to be the best means to limit AIS spread. Wisconsin laws have been in place since 2013 to enforce violations. Click on the following link for the statutes:


Aquatic Invasive Species Statute Guide as of January 2013


We have Private Landings - Why is this Important to NL? - Even though NL has private landings, many residents enjoy fishing on different lakes. Our landings limit the general public from using our lakes, but we still have many boats coming and going. Residents need to think about AIS every time they enter or exit ANY lake or river.


How big is the risk - How close are AIS to NL? - It's important to know what AIS are in the lakes you plan to visit. Vilas County has an additional Priority Lake classification if the lake has Eurasian Water-Milfoil, Curly-leaf Pondweed, or Spiny Water Flea. Some of the Priority lakes close to NL include:

  • Trout Lake (Spiny Waterflea)

  • Manitowish Chain - Island, Manitowish, Rest, Stone, and Spider Lakes (Pondweed)

  • Cisco Chain - Big Lake (Milfoil), Mamie Lake (Pondweed)

  • Upper/Middle Gresham Lake (Milfoil)

Priority AIS lakes can incur a large management expense. During our 2019 CBCW training we met a resident of the Forest Lake homeowners association who told us their association budgeted $23,000 in 2019 for the pulling/harvesting of Eurasian Water-Milfoil. For comparison, NL's road maintenance budget for 2018 was approximately $30,000. It would be a large increase in our annual dues if we had to add AIS management to our expenses. AIS could also impact our property values.


Should I stop fishing on lakes with AIS? - No, if you follow CBCW practices you should be able to continue enjoying all Vilas County waterways.


What can YOU do about AIS? - Inspect, Drain, Clean, Discard, and Educate.


Inspect your boat and trailer inside and out each time you enter and exit a waterway . Remove all weeds and mud from the outside of your boat and trailer. Remove any discarded weeds inside your boat. Check your anchor and clean off any weeds and mud.


Drain your livewells, and drain the water in the bottom of your boat. Burp water retained in your motor or PWC. Drain any coolers holding fish. Fish can be transported on ice, or in a cooler without water. It is against Wisconsin law to transport fish in water in a livewell, or in water in a cooler.


Clean your boat and trailer between lakes or when you get home. Best practice is to have the boat and trailer disinfected or to let it dry for 5 days. While good advice, that's not practical when you are fishing over a weekend. A small hand pump weed sprayer with a couple capfuls of bleach per gallon can be an effective cleaning agent. Inspect, drain, and clean your boat and trailer when you exit a landing. Spray them down before leaving a landing and they will be disinfected and dry by the time you reach the next lake. If you only fish one lake per day, spray them down when you get home.


Discard in the trash all partially used live bait. Do not throw bait or worms into the woods. Do not add lake water to live bait buckets if you plan to use that bait in another lake. It is against Wisconsin law to use bait in one lake, then use that same bait in another lake.


Educate your friends, family, and fishing buddies. Many people may dismiss these practices as excessive. Some people think they are not to blame and that they take care of their boats and equipment. AIS are VERY easy to innocently pick up and transmit because some are microscopic or hidden in mud or debris. Talk to the Forest Lake homeowners or others on lakes with AIS. Think about what would happen to our property values or annual dues if we had an AIS problem.


CBCW Handouts - The following links are CBCW handouts NL distributes during our CBCW landing inspections over Memorial Day and July 4th weekends. If you would like copies of any handouts, or are looking for more AIS information, please contact the Invasive Species Committee.


Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers

Fishing with Bait

Drain Campaign - its the Law

Eurasian Water-Milfoil

Curly-leaf Pondweed

Spiny Waterflea

Chinese Mystery Snail

Zebra Mussel

Purple Loosestrife

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