Use of Felt-Soled Waders and Boots Prohibited in Vermont Waters
Anglers wear felt-soled waders and boots to help keep from slipping on rocks and other slippery objects while wadding. But, felts-soled boots and waders cause a serious problem. So much so, that on April 1, 2011, the use of any felt-soled waders or boots by anglers, hunters and trappers is prohibited in all Vermont waters.
The Vermont Legislature enacted this new law to help curb the spread of aquatic invasive species, 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 the 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,” stated Vermont Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist, Shawn Good. “The abundance of certain types of trout foods like mayflies, caddis flies and stoneflies have been shown , in some instances, to decline dramatically where didymo blooms are found.”
Good also added that, while research hasn’t proven a connection between the presence of didymo and the declines in trout numbers, taking steps to prevent the spread of 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 a devastating effects on rainbow trout populations.
In Vermont, didymo was first found 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 soles you ask? Aquatic invasive species can be spread in a number of ways, but felt soled waders and boots are a notable contributor to this 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.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department notes that there are alternatives to felt-soled waders and boots on the market now, as well as homemade remedies. These include the following:
- Cut the felt soles off the boots and waders and use a studded sole product that straps onto your boot and waders.
- 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 ˝ inch hex-headed sheet metal screws. This is an inexpensive way of using your current waders and boots after removing their felt soles. Specialized hardened screws are also commercially available.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department also 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.
Personally, I gave up my felt-soled waders many years ago, long before this problem was known, because they did not help that much in preventing a slip when on rocky bottomed stream beds or wet rocks, etc. I replaced those waders with a pair of rubber-soled ones on which I wear a pair of studded strap-on cleats that work safely for me while fishing streams.
Now, I wonder if our New Hampshire Fish and Game Department will pass a law outlawing the use of felt-sole boots and waders? Our state also has problems with didymo, etc. Perhaps this subject should be looked into for the Granite State. However, even if the state does not ban the wearing of felt soles soon, any sincere angler, trapper or hunter will think on the matter and choose a course of action.
Bob Harris can be
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Columns by Bob Harris
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