Welcome to Minnesota. Show Me Your Boat Trailer Papers, Please.

new Minnesota boat trailer law

This law was repealed! You now have to affirm that you understand the AIS rules when you register a boat or get a out-of-state fishing license.

Next time you trailer your canoe or kayak in Minnesota, you could be pulled over by a conservation officer who demands to see your papers. Well, it might not be that bad and your papers are a decal on your trailer, so it’s really not like that at all. But, next July if you trailer your canoe or kayak in Minnesota, you’ll be required to have an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal on your trailer. This new law is another attempt by Minnesota to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, such as the spiny water flea, zebra mussels and the ever-so-tasty rusty crayfish. It has an admirable goal.

I talked to the April Rust, the Invasive Species Training Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, recently to get some clarification on the law to see who it would affect and this is what I learned:

  • This law affects anyone that uses a boat trailer in Minnesota, including a canoe or kayak trailer. Even if your trailer never goes into the water, like most canoe and kayak trailers, you’re required to obtain and display the sticker.

Minnesota aquatic invasive species trailer stickerIf you use a trailer to move your kayaks or canoes (or any boat):

  • You must do the AIS training. This will be offered online and via home study. Online training will be available on January 5, 2015.
  • After you complete the training, you’ll receive the sticker.
  • Stickers and training will cost you money. The price is not set.
  • Trailer decals are required on trailers starting July 1, 2015.
  • Stickers are good for three years and after that you’ll have to take the training again.

One of the most interesting features of the law is that even if you are just passing through Minnesota on your way to another destination, you are required to obtain the training and display the sticker. So, for example, if you’re coming from Wisconsin and heading to Ontario, you must get the training, pay the fee and display the sticker. Rust said that the DNR knows about this problem with the law and are seeking a legislative fix. In the meantime, she said that conservation officers won’t be enforcing that part of the law (those zebra mussels on your fender will get temporary amnesty as you pass through Minnesota).

The law has a few more glitches as well. One glitch is if you rent a trailer in Minnesota that already has a sticker on it, you won’t be required to take the training. If you cartop your canoe or kayak instead of carry it on a trailer, Rust said, you don’t need to take the training or display the sticker. Rust wasn’t certain when I talked to her whether or not that training would be made available for free for people who want to take the training regardless of whether or not they trailer a canoe or kayak. It depends on the whether or not the private testing company that is administering the test will allow citizens of Minnesota or elsewhere to take the test without paying for it.

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There’s some controversy over the effectiveness of the new AIS laws in Minnesota. Since 2009 there has been 235% increase in Zebra mussel spread despite the laws enacted in 2011 and 2012. Spiny water flea is also spreading. Also, some of the state’s policies seem to work against the AIS laws. For example, the proposed sulfide mining in northern Minnesota could change the chemistry of lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior to make them more susceptible to zebra mussel and rusty crayfish infestation. Currently, Lake Superior and many of the northern lakes have calcium levels too low to support zebra mussels. Those low calcium levels help prevent the spread of zebra mussels into the lakes that we love1.

The DNR has a Trailer FAQ page set up to answer further questions, but it seems pretty cut and dry. If you have or use a canoe, kayak or boat trailer in Minnesota, it needs a sticker. If you’re the owner, you need to get training.


  • Well they have to get rid of the out of staters driving through or even paddling in the state to needing this class/sticker. Come on iam driving through from NY and I get a ticket for not having taken a class I never even heard of. It would never hold up in court. Most kayak trailers never go into the water either so not really seeing the need for this for kayak trailers. Power boaters/jet-skis trailers sure but kayak trailers no.

  • After all these many years of allowing salties to dump their ballast water in our Great Lakes now they are going to ask us to take a class and pay a fee for a trailer sticker. What next??

  • Sounds like a lot of bureaucratically enhanced garbage. Just another law on the books and money in some bureaucrats pocket. When all that needs to happen is to post signs, showing boaters how to clean their equipment. But wait that sounds to simple and cost effective.

    • We already have those signs posted at the boat ramps and the invasive species are still spreading. So it’s simple and not costly, but probably not effective.

  • I actually really like the idea of just having decal stickers to put on the back of your boat to show that it is registered. This saves me some time as the cops won’t want to pull me over to double check my papers. It seems very simple and easy enough, and would actually save me some hassle.

    • Hey if they want people who live in the state to have stickers on trailer ok then BUT to have out of staters to have taken a class is just crazy nuts. Iam talking about kayakers not power boaters. Like I said already kayak trailers don’t go into the water so this whole thing is just STUPID for kayak trailers.

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