Are you disinfecting your gear?

With last year’s discovery of the aquatic invasive plant species Didymo (commonly known as “rock snot”) in the Youghiogheny River, spreading the word about proper disinfection of fishing and paddling gear is high on our list of things to do this summer.

Late last spring, a single sample was taken in the river near some large boulders with tufts of Didymo growing at moderate length. The sample was taken by Erik L. Silldorff, PhD, an Aquatic Biologist.  On Friday, June 1, 2012, the Academy of Natural Sciences verified the identification of the sample submitted by Dr. Silldorff.  Dr. Silldorff noted, “there was plenty of Didymo on the rocks so I had no trouble finding material to collect, and my sample was filled with nice, healthy, living Didymo.  So, in terms of a risk of spread, I would say the Youghiogheny is now a potential launching pad, especially with the combined traffic of whitewater enthusiasts and trout anglers.”

According to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, Didymo, “can smother entire stream beds with mats as thick as eight inches and can ruin just about any river or creek.”  Because the Youghiogheny River in general, and the Ohiopyle area specifically, is heavily used for recreation, it is impossible to understate the importance of proper disinfection in order to curb the spread of Didymo.

Gear can be disinfected by using a 10% household bleach and 90% water solution or a strong salt solution (minimally, use at least a true 5% salt solution).  It is also possible to use Dawn original dishwashing detergent.  Dilute 1 cup of detergent in 5 gallons of water.  Allow any solution to remain in contact with equipment for at least 1 minute, or longer if possible.  Any of these solutions can be harsh on gear and equipment so be sure to rinse everything with plenty of water after disinfecting.  Take extra care to properly disinfect porous materials such as nets, ropes, cloth items, water shoes, and especially felt-soled waders and wading shoes.  All users of the river should take extra precaution to clean all equipment used in the Youghiogheny before entering other waterbodies to avoid spreading Didymo to other streams.   Didymo can be spread by moving just a small amount – even just a cell or two.

Please contact us with any questions about didymo or proper disinfection techniques.  Thanks!  See you on the river.