You may not have heard, but New Zealand mud snails have been discovered in Badger Mill Creek, a tributary to the upper Sugar River, both of which are class II trout streams in Dane County. You may not have heard that because the DNR hasn’t made an official announcement yet, despite having circulated the information among local conservation groups at the beginning of November. Their press release guy has been on vacation, I assume.
The most likely vector for infestation (at least, to my mind) is from Black Earth Creek, which has an established population of New Zealand mud snails since at least 2011. (I call “Not It” because I’ve never visited Badger Mill Creek.) I’ve discussed previously the importance of maintaining your gear with a focus on preventing the spread of invasive species. I think it’s never a bad time to remember the importance that we as anglers have in keeping these aquatic invasive species (AIS) in check. We likely spend more time in the water than everybody but the fish, and we rarely hold ourselves to a single stream or body of water. The chances of potentially spreading AIS such as New Zealand mud snails is always there, even if we can’t define it to a number of chances in ten or down to the percentage point.
At the very least you should have a wire brush in the car, and you should inspect your gear and remove any plants or animals from your stuff whenever you enter or leave a stream (you can keep yourself in the waders, however). These days the most popular public access points often have wire brush cleaning stations, so there is really no excuse to be an irresponsible angler.
If you want to get fancy, buy a hand-pump sprayer and fill it with water to help get that hard-to-brush dirt and grime off your gear. And keep your gear area clean and dry in the back of the car, too.
There are other things you can consider depending upon how disciplined you are. Only fish one stream per trip, and thoroughly dry your gear between adventures. Keep a separate set of gear to use only on streams infested with mud snails (your local fly shop will love you). Don’t go fishing ever again (like I said, it takes discipline).
It remains to be seen to what extent the presence of mud snails will have on trout fishing in Wisconsin, and how far they will spread across the Driftless area. Spending a few minutes to clean your dirty-ass waders each time you go fishing will help keep their travels to a minimum.
Remember: fish local, and keep the invasives localized too. Once they get in, it’s almost impossible to get them back out again.