Possession and Transport of Exotic Aquatic Species

The intentional or unintentional possession or transportation of aquatic invasive species without a permit is illegal in Texas. Please see our list of harmful and potentially harmful aquatic species.

Learn how to properly dispose of aquarium plants and animals.

General Rules

It is unlawful to:

  • Possess or transport any exotic aquatic plant or animal listed as harmful or potentially harmful. This includes: plants such as hydrilla, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia; fishes such as tilapia and invasive carps (grass, silver, and bighead carp); and zebra mussels.
    • Boats with attached zebra mussels may be moved to a maintenance shop for cleaning or other maintenance provided the department is notified at least 72 hours in advance using the Boat Maintenance Movement Notice form. Boats moving to another lake after maintenance may require inspection and decontamination.
  • Possess any tilapia, grass carp, or any other fish listed as harmful or potentially harmful without first killing the fish by gutting, beheading, gill-cutting, or other means, or placing the fish on ice, except on those waters where a valid Triploid Grass Carp Permit is in effect. In those waters, it is illegal to possess grass carp, and any grass carp caught must be immediately returned to the water unharmed. Please see our list of waters with Triploid Grass Carp Permits.
  • Fail to immediately remove and lawfully dispose of any harmful or potentially harmful aquatic plant that is clinging or attached to a vessel, watercraft, trailer, motor vehicle, or other device used to transport or launch a vessel or watercraft. Violators are subject to a fine of $25-$500. Learn how to properly clean your watercraft.

Grass Carp

Mandatory Draining of Water from Vessels

Persons leaving or approaching public fresh water are required to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles (includes live wells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water-intake systems coming into contact with public waters). This rule applies at all sites where boats can be launched and includes all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used to travel on public waters.

  • Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported from the water body where the fish were caught in or aboard a vessel in water from the water body where the fish were caught. Personally caught live bait can be used in the water body where it was caught.
  • Transport and use of commercially purchased live bait in water while fishing from a vessel is allowed, provided persons in possession of the bait have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body can only be used as bait on that same water body.
  • A vessel leaving a public freshwater body may be transported on a public roadway without water being drained, provided the vessel is transported via the most direct route to another access point located on the same water body during that same day.
  • Persons participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body are allowed to transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, provided all water is drained and properly disposed of before leaving that location. Participants must possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that identify them as participants in a tournament.
  • Marine sanitary systems are not covered by these regulations.
  • Following these procedures does not exempt persons from complying with prohibitions against transporting exotic aquatic species that are visible to the unaided eye, such as adult zebra mussels, which may be attached to boats or trailers.

Rule to Prevent Spread of Bighead and Silver Carp

It is unlawful to transport live, non-game fishes from the Red River and all tributary waters in Grayson, Fannin, Lamar, Red River, and Bowie counties below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border, Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake), and the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman dam. Nongame fishes collected from these waters may be used as live bait on the water bodies where they were collected.