6 Ways Boaters Can Keep Lakes Clean
There’s little appeal in cloudy brown water covered with scum or floating islands of plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. And the smell of gasoline? It’s much less inviting than the scent of fresh water surrounded by clear sky and parkland. Crystal water, blue skies and gentle, steady breezes—those are the attractions that keep most of us returning again and again to freshwater lakes.
But clean lakes come with a price if you’re a boater: doing your small part to maintain them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidelines for enjoying lakes in an environmentally responsible manner, as does the Freshwater Society, a nonprofit agency begun in 1968 to promote the "conservation, protection and restoration of all freshwater resources." For boaters, the advice is relatively simple and can be reduced to six easy habits—four if you don’t fish.
As they lap against shorelines, waves exacerbate erosion, causing silt and debris to enter lake water. So that you and your boat don’t unduly increase wave action, keep your speed on the slow side.
Choose a cleaner engine.
The EPA recommends 4-cylinder engines over three. Four-cylinder engines release less gasoline into the water and emit fewer pollutants into the air than three-cylinder engines.
Check for invasive species.
If, as you’re leaving the lake, you notice any exotic and/or potentially invasive plant or animal life clinging to your boat or your other equipment, contact the people in charge. Unless the lake is privately owned, that will most likely be the Department of Natural Resources. Often, contact numbers to call regarding invasive species are posted at launches and marinas. If left unchecked, invasive species can adversely affect water quality over time.
Don’t dump liquids that contain detergents into lake water. When you do dishes after dinner or clean yourself up after a hot day on the boat, save the resulting dirty water to dispose of later, once you reach shore. Dishwashing liquid, shampoo, body bars and body washes contain toxins that can harm aquatic life, so dumping them overboard is definitely not water wise.
Clean catch on shore.
Although it's sometimes acceptable at sea, dumping fish waste is a no-no in lakes. Instead, take your catch ashore and clean it at the cleaning station at the launch or the marina. Dispose of waste in the containers provided. The marina may repurpose the fish waste, using it with peat and other natural matter to make organic fertilizer. Alternatively, you may to dispose of only part of the waste, saving and freezing some parts to use later as bait.
Say no to lead.
Keep the lake lead-free by giving up your lead sinkers and jigs, opting instead for non-toxic tackle that won’t harm fish and bird life. For those of us who love and respect nature, doing all that we can to keep our rivers, lakes and oceans as clean as possible should be a priority. That's especially true for us lake enthusiasts. After all, we want to enjoy many, many days of boating on clean, clear water. Not polluting lake water with detergents, fishing waste, petroleum products and other litter is the very least we can do.