Vermont Bans Felt-Soled Waders/Boots Beginning April 1st
Anglers, hunters, trappers and others who wade in Vermont's streams and lakes will be helping to protect our natural resources by paying close attention to their foot gear. The use of felt-soled waders or boots in Vermont waters is prohibited starting April 1, 2011.
The Vermont legislature enacted the new law to help curb the spread of aquatic invasive species such as whirling disease of fish and didymo, a microscopic algae more commonly known as "rock snot."
Originally native to the most northern reaches of Europe, Asia, and North America, didymo has recently been found in many new locations throughout the U.S., Canada and around the world. In some of these new environments, didymo has formed nuisance blooms and dense mats several inches thick that carpet stream bottoms.
"In some cases, didymo can change aquatic insect communities and native algae populations in streams," said Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Shawn Good. "The abundance of certain types of trout food like mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies have been shown, in some instances, to decline dramatically where didymo blooms are found."
Good added that, while research hasn't proven a connection between the presence of didymo and declines in trout numbers, taking steps to prevent the spread of the invasive didymo is important. The same precautions that can prevent the spread of didymo, can also prevent the spread of whirling disease, which can have devastating effects on rainbow trout populations.
Didymo was first found in Vermont in the Connecticut River in 2007. A bloom also occurred in a New York section of the Batten Kill in 2006. Nuisance blooms have since occurred in the Mad, White, East Branch Passumpsic, and Gihon Rivers. The pathogen for whirling disease has been documented in the Batten Kill. The focus of the ban on felt-soled waders and boots is to prevent these and other invasive organisms from spreading to new waters.
Why the focus on felt?
Aquatic invasive species can be spread in a number of ways, but felt-soled boots are a notable contributor to the problem, particularly with microscopic species that spread through cells and spores. Felt is especially problematic because it is difficult to dry, clean or disinfect. Felt's woven fibers create voids that remain damp for long periods of time, and didymo cells and other small material can penetrate and occupy these voids. Recommended treatments have often been found to be ineffective at disinfecting these spaces.
Information on the role of felt-soled waders in the spread of aquatic invasive species can be found on the Center for Aquatic Nuisance Species website http://stopans.org, by clicking on "The Science of Felt" link.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department notes there are alternatives to felt-soled boots available on the market now as well as "homemade" remedies.
Cut the felt soles off the boots and use a studded sole product that straps onto your waders or boots.
Use waders or boots made with studded or high-grip rubber sole material.
Add your own "studs" to a pair of rubber-soled boots or waders, by screwing in ½" hex-head sheet metal screws. This is an inexpensive way of using your current waders and boots after removing the felt soles. Specialized, hardened screws are also commercially available.
The Fish and Wildlife Department recommends taking additional precautions after fishing and especially when moving between waters. Boots and other equipment should be dried, preferably in the sun, or disinfected with dishwashing detergent or bleach solution.
Further details and information can be found on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife website at www.vtfishandwildlife.com/felt.cfm and on the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation's website at http://www.vtwaterquality.org/lakes/htm/ans/lp_didymo.htm.