HELENA – It might not feel like boating season outside just yet, but Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is gearing up for another season on the water.

To do that, any watercraft owner planning on enjoying waterbodies in Montana, they must go through inspection stations.

After mussels were detected in 2016 in both the Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs, FWP opened 35 inspection stations across the state.

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Last season, these stations inspected more than 86,000 watercraft and no mussels were detected. FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau Chief Thomas Woolf said these stations will be open for at least two more seasons.

Mussels were detected on two different occasions in Tiber and just one time in Canyon Ferry, meaning Canyon Ferry fits into the suspect water body category.

“The western standard is three years of active monitoring for suspect and no new detection and then we can reevaluate,” Woolf explained. “At Tiber, the standard is five years because we had detected those microscopic mussels on two different occasions.”

Woolf added it is possible to not find more mussels, but it’s critical to keep testing.

“We sampled the heck out of water bodies in Montana last year we are going to continue that this next season. Hopefully we never see them again, that’s happened in other places in the west where they’ve had detections and then they don’t see them again. We’re prepared either way though,” he said.

As the state enters the second season of containment, Woolf said it’ very important for boaters to continue cleaning, draining and drying their watercraft.

Unlike native mussels to the state that ‘just grub around in the mud’, these invasive mussels stick to items like boats, sprinklers, hoses and hydroelectric plants.

“Their impacts economically are huge,” Woolf said.

The environment is also impacted because these invasive mussels ‘mine the bottom of the food chain.’

FWP will begin opening the watercraft inspection stations at the end of March and continue through the Memorial Day weekend. Positions are currently being filled, and find more information about the jobs here.