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Boaters Gearing Up For July 4TH Weekend May Need Inspection

As boaters flock to the amazing rivers and lakes across the state for the July 4th weekend, keep in mind the rules aimed at preventing aquatic invasive species from spreading.

Just like in past years, watercraft owners must stop at all open inspection stations they encounter. Typically, these stops are very brief and include a short series of questions and an inspection of the boat and trailer. Watercraft owners can make this process quick and easy if they consistently practice Clean, Drain and Dry:

  • Clean all mud and debris from the watercraft and trailer.

  • Pull drain plugs and make sure all compartments, bilges and ballasts are drained.

  • Dry out your watercraft, including dry wells, storage areas and compartments.

Following these simple instructions will not only protect Montana’s waters, but will also expedite inspections.

In response to the busy weekend, FWP inspection station and enforcement staff will be working hard to make sure everyone knows the AIS rules and has a safe and fun time on the water.

Confused about whether or not you need to get your watercraft inspected for aquatic invasive species? Don’t worry, the answer is simpler than you might think.

What types of watercraft need an inspection?

All watercraft must be inspected. All motorized boats must be inspected, including trolling motors. All nonmotorized watercraft including, but not limited to, drift boats, canoes, kayaks, rafts, fishing pontoon boats, row boats, pedal boats and stand-up paddle boards must be inspected.

Are you bringing your watercraft into Montana from out of state?

Yes: You must stop at all open roadside inspection stations. You must be inspected prior to launching on Montana waters. Find watercraft inspection stations at Nonresident watercraft launching in Montana will also need to purchase a Vessel AIS Prevention Pass.

Are you crossing the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin?

Yes: You need to be inspected prior to launching on waters west of the Continental Divide.

Are you launching on waters within the Flathead Basin and your watercraft was last used on waters outside the Flathead Basin?

Yes: You need to be inspected prior to launching.

No: If you launch your boat within the Flathead Basin, then transport your boat outside the Flathead Basin but do not launch it, then you do not need to seek out an inspection when you travel back into the Flathead Basin. However, you must stop at all open inspection stations as directed by signs.

Are you encountering an open inspection station?

Yes: If you have any type of watercraft, you must stop and get inspected, even if you have been previously inspected.

These rules are not just good ideas, they’re the law. Failure to stop at an inspection station can result in a fine up to $500.

The three steps of Clean, Drain, Dry greatly minimizes the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species. It also minimizes the time required for inspection at a station.

To find a watercraft inspection station and to learn more, go to or call the FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau at 406-444-2440.

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