Area Waters Threatened
Inside the Outdoors, March 1
, 2013

Its been said more times than enough, ‘do nothing and evil will result.’ That applies to all life styles whether one is talking about the sanctity of life, or in this case, the spread of invasive species that have, for years, threatened our waterways.

Many years ago, the Quagga Mussels made headlines followed by the introduction of Round Gobies that infiltrated Lake Erie. It became knowledgeable that these two species were prominent. Warnings were issued as well as alerts as to what to do when encountering these creatures. The key was to stop aquatic hitchhikers before they spread to other water basins.

Recently, while attending the Allegheny Sport, Travel and Outdoor Show, I happened to drop in and listen to John Hayes of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette talk about an invasive species threat that just may be threatening our trout streams. It’s called Didymo algae or rock snot.

According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, it can be described as it is ‘structurally unique’ as it is a “very large single-celled, coke-bottle shaped alga known as a diatom. This give mats of the species a characteristic wet cotton feel when handled, which distinguishes it from species of filamentous algae which generally are slimy to touch. It can produce an extracellular, branched stalk which can form strong attachments to a variety of substrates, including plants and hard substances such as plants and stones.”

Hayes told visitors that this creature is one microscopic cell that can reproduce on its own.

Known to first make its appearance in Wayne County in the northeastern part of the state, it made its way down to York and Adams Counties in the southern part of the state eventually showing up in the Youghiogheny River in Ohio Pyle. That is not to say its in the whole waterway, but just in a certain section.

According to Hayes, the area affected is located downstream below the falls. It has been concluded that kayakers coming from all over have put in their boats here bringing the algae from other water basins. The ‘snot’ has attached itself to the structures. When they are introduced to the waters, they are released, taking up residency onto the rocks, plants and bottoms.

“It’s too soon to tell how the presence of didymo will impact Youghiogheny trout stock and native trout reproduction in the region,” Hayes said. “The waters downstream clearly are in jeopardy. Considering didymo’s documented propensity to spread quickly, all the popular trout waters of the Laurel Highlands are also at risk.”

The question becomes obvious, “What would they do to streams and creeks?”

Even though there hasn’t been that much study on it, the conclusive evidence is unanimous. “Experts predict serious consequence for Western Pennsylvania trout anglers.”

Department of Natural Resources for Maryland, Ron Klauda, joined Hayes in helping listeners understand the real problems that are existing in efforts to try to ward off further spread of Didymo. He noted, “Banned in my state has been felt soles. In addition, we provide wader wash stations. In Pennsylvania, there is no ban on felt soles. Emphasis is more on education.”

According to John Arway, who, by the way was in attendance at the show, said, “We just need to be cautious as users of the river and make sure we clean our gear so that we aren’t responsible for spreading it around the watershed.”

“Scott Hoffman, president of Chestnut Ridge Trout Unlimited, built a Gear Washing Station that one can clean his or her boots in,” he said. It is located in Ohio Pyle State Park. He did so using his money at the cost of $50 to $60.”

He would like to see more of these built for the convenience of anglers exiting infested waters.

Klauda suggested that sportsmen wash their boots in soap and water and hang them up to dry for at least three days. “Once they are totally dry,” he said, “that ought to kill off all the cells that may have attached themselves to the bottom.”

“One can also use 10 percent household bleach and 90 percent water,” he concluded.

This solution should be applied to anything from kayaks to nets, cloths items, ropes, wading shoes or anything else submerged in the water. Also check the 2013 Pennsylvania Fish Summary booklet for added ways to ward off invasive species.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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