This Protector’s Blog includes contributions from Rachel Rowlee, a 2023 Watercraft Inspection Steward. 

Winter is here and there are many fun activities that you can enjoy this season like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and much more! While you’re spending time outdoors this winter there are some simple actions you can take to protect your favorite hiking trails, forests, and waterways from invasive species. 

While Snowshoing or Cross-country Skiing

The Issue: Hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is an invasive forest pest that kills hemlock trees. Hemlocks are an important tree species that provide many eco-services for both nature and people.  HWA is known to be present in NYS. In the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario region, HWA is confirmed present in Oswego County and is thought to be spreading along the Eastern Lake Ontario shoreline.

How You Can Help: 

  • Participate in a Virtual Hike Challenge to learn how to survey for HWA, find suggested survey trails, and win prizes (sign up here)!
  • Visit public trails in forests this winter and check hemlock tree branches for the presence of white woolly masses. Look along the branches where the needles connect.
  • Report observations to iMapinvasives (mobile app or online)

Join annual guided hikes to get hands-on training to learn to survey for HWA.

2024 Walk & Talk Schedule (REGISTER). 

  • 3/13/24 Great Bear Rec. Area, Fulton

While Icefishing

The Issue: Even in the winter, anglers should still be aware of the potential pathways in which invasive species could be introduced or spread. Ice fishing typically requires specific equipment and preferred forms of bait. Invasive species like spiny waterflea can get tangled on your fishing gear and be introduced to new areas if the gear isn’t cleaned before use. Uncertified baitfish have the potential to carry Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), an invasive fish pathogen that causes the tissue and organs of infected fish to hemorrhage and can lead to fish mortality. Anglers should be aware of their county-specific regulations regarding baitfish use to ensure the health of native fish. 

In addition, to following bait regulations, ice anglers should keep an eye out for invasive fish and report sightings. Invasive fish disrupt the aquatic food web and can outcompete native fish resulting in negative impacts on the fishing industry. To keep from introducing an invasive species, anglers should avoid dumping bait or transporting fish to a new water body. Relocating fish is illegal in New York without a DEC fish stocking permit and you could accidently introduce VHS. 

How You Can Help: 

  • Ensure your fishing equipment is clean before use.  
  • Learn to recognize invasive fish that may be encroaching on water bodies in your region.
  • Report sightings of invasive fish you encounter to Or contact your regional NYS DEC Fisheries Unit. 
  • Dispose of unused bait or fish carcasses in the trash.
  • Use certified bait fish.
  • Do not transport fish from one waterbody to another.

Invasive Fish to Watch Out For

Northern snakehead (Channa argus), and tench (Tinca tinca), are two invasive fish that are not yet known to be established in the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario region but could easily be spread to the area.

If you believe you have caught northern snakehead:
  • Kill it immediately (remember, it can survive on land) and freeze it.
  • If possible, take pictures of the fish, including close-ups of its mouth, fins, and tail.
  • Note where it was caught (waterbody, landmarks, or GPS coordinates).
  • Report it to the Region 7 NYS DEC Fisheries Unit 607-753-3095 (Ex: 213).
  • You can also submit a report through iMapinvasives
If you believe you have caught silver, bighead, black, or grass carp:
  • Put it on ice.
  • Note that sterile grass carp may be stocked in private ponds through permits. 
  • Take pictures of the fish, including close-ups of its mouth, fins, and tail.
  • Note where it was caught (waterbody, landmarks, or GPS coordinates).
  • Report it to the NYS DEC’s Invasive Species Bureau at or (518) 402-9425.
  • You can also submit a report through iMapinvasives
If you believe you have caught tench:
  • Note your location.
  • Do not release the specimen, put it on ice.
  • Take close-up photos of the specimen.
  • Notify the SLELO PRISM Program Manager Rob Williams at

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Watch For Signs of an Invasive Fish Pathogen

Courtesy of: Phelps, N. (n.d.). Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS). Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) | Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC).

 Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), is a fish pathogen that does not threaten human health. Causing the tissue and organs of infected fish to hemorrhage and bleed VHS can lead to mortality ranging from a few hundred to thousands of fish. Fresh and saltwater fish are susceptible, however, not all infected fish develop the symptoms of VHS for which there is no known cure.  VHS can be spread through the introduction of infected fish, some activities that may aid the introduction include fish stocking or fishing bait. VHS has been found in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and other waterbodies in New York State. 

VHS Signs in Fish: VHS can only be confirmed by lab diagnosis, and these signs may not be present in all infected fish.

  • Hemorraging/bleeding 
  • Bulging eyes 
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Unusual behavior
  • Anemia 

If you witness a large number of dead or dying fish (usually 100 or more), please contact the nearest DEC Regional Fisheries Office

Virtual Toolboxes

Visit the Protector’s Virtual Toolboxes below to access resources themed for each category, and to learn more about how to protect your favorite outdoor spaces from invasive species. 

Lands & Trails

Lands & Trails

Protect your private or publicly accessible lands and favorite hiking trails
Open Toolbox



Protect your private or publicly accessible forested areas
Open Toolbox



Protect your favorite paddle-ways, boating and fishing destinations
Open Toolbox



Protect your backyard or community gardens
Open Toolbox



Protect your favorite parks or urban green spaces, and street trees
Open Toolbox

Did you enjoy this blog post? Take our Pledge to Protect and get monthly emails showcasing actions you can take to protect your favorite hiking trails, paddleways, forests, garden, and community from the impacts of invasive species!

Take the Pledge to Protect

The Pledge-to-Protect is a fun, positive, inviting, engaging and rewarding way to participate in invasive species prevention and management.


Here’s How It Works:
  1. Fill out the pledge form below and select the outdoor areas you spend the most time in.
  2. Check your inbox for your confirmation email.
  3. Explore the resources in the virtual toolkits or download the PDFs.
  4. Earn a virtual badge for each pledge you take.
  5. Every month, you’ll receive a special Pledge-to-Protect email about a prevention/management activity to help you fulfill your pledge OR a highlight of an invasive species to keep an eye out for.
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Chose the pledge category that you spend the most time in or that you're the most interested in learning of applicable prevention and management actions you can take while enjoying these environments.
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