After a five-year ban on the use of wading boots with felt soles to stave infestation of invasive species like didymo (rock snot), Vermont has decided that beginning July 1st, 2016, anglers can once again lace up the footwear of their choice when fishing the state’s rivers.
Using felt-soled waders and boots was prohibited in 2011 out of concern about the spread of didymo, an algae also known as “rock snot,” which was appearing as nuisance blooms in trout rivers throughout North America, including some rivers here in Vermont. The porous felt on boot bottoms helps prevent slipping on rocks, but it was considered a potential means of transporting the algae spores from one body of water to another.
Didymo was once thought to be a recently introduced invasive algae species, but recent research has revealed that it is actually native to Vermont and other regions of North America. Scientists found that didymo spores are present in most Vermont rivers, and the spores can cause nuisance algae blooms under certain water conditions favoring growth of the algae.
Although felt-soled waders and boots can once again be used in state waters, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is asking anglers and other water recreationists to thoroughly clean and dry all of their equipment after leaving any water body before going to another.
“Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species to new waters is critical to protecting the health of Vermont’s aquatic ecosystems,” said State Fisheries Biologist Shawn Good. “Boats, kayaks, trailers, fishing equipment, scuba gear and other items can spread aquatic invasive species unless properly cleaned, dried or disinfected after use.”
“While some invasives are easy to see such as Eurasian milfoil stuck on a boat trailer,” he added, “others are too small to be noticed, such as spiny waterflea, larval zebra mussels, or viruses and bacteria that cause fish diseases.”