An invasive alga that could have serious implications for the northern Adirondack trout fishing industry just got one step closer.
Last week, on May 12, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that didymo, an invasive alga, has been found in Kayaderosseras Creek in Saratoga County. This is the fifth major trout stream in New York State where this aquatic nuisance species — also called “rock snot” — has been found.
So now, the invasive species is just a two- or three-hour drive away from the West Branch of the AuSable and other popular northern Adirondack trout waters. Preventing it from getting here is likely going to be an uphill battle. All it would take for the snot to move north is one careless or unaware fisherman, paddler or boater.
If it does arrive, it could hurt not only the local trout hot spots but the local economies, such as Wilmington, which rely on visiting fishermen to spend money in local stores, gas stations, restaurants and lodging facilities.
Rock snot is a nasty invasive that grows on the bottom of flowing and still waters. Its cells can produce large amounts of stalk material that form thick mats on stream bottoms. In the process, it ruins habitat for fish food, such as insects, and also for spawning trout.
“The appearance of these mats has been compared to brown shag carpet, fiberglass insulation or tissue paper,” according to a recent DEC press release. “Didymo resembles rotting cardboard when exposed and dried.”
Didymo has historically been limited to cold, nutrient-poor, far northern waters, but in recent decades has been expanding its range and its tolerance to warmer and more productive rivers and creeks.
Rock snot was first found in New York in 2007 in the Batten Kill in Washington County. It has also been confirmed in the East Branch of the Delaware River, the West Branch of the Delaware River and Esopus Creek.
What makes popular trout fishing waters particularly vulnerable is that it is believed to be spread by fishermen, clinging to waders, boots, clothing and other gear. The DEC has identified felt-soled waders and wading shoes as one of the most likely means of spreading didymo. The DEC recommends using rubber or studded soles that provide similar traction to felt-soled shoes and are much less likely to transport this and other aquatic invasive species.
But rock snot can also spread by canoes, kayaks and other boats.
Sections of the Kayaderosseras Creek are popular with paddlers. That means it’s not a stretch to think that the invasives could wind up in a place like the St. Regis Canoe area, the Oswegatchie, or perhaps the Bog River and Lows Lake.
There are no known methods for controlling or eradicating rock snot once it infests a water body.
For those who recreate on the water, the DEC has a checklist to go through in between trips:
CHECK — Before leaving a river or stream, remove all obvious clumps of algae and look for hidden clumps. Leave them at the affected site. If you find any later, do not wash them down drains; dispose all material in the trash.
CLEAN — Soak and scrub all items for at least one minute in either hot water (140 degrees F), a two percent solution of household bleach, or a five percent solution of salt, antiseptic hand cleaner or dishwashing detergent. Be sure that the solution completely penetrates thick absorbent items such as felt soled waders and wading boots.
DRY — If cleaning is not practical, after the item is completely dry to touch, wait an additional 48 hours before contact or use in any other waterway. Check thick absorbent items closely to assure that they are dry throughout. Equipment and gear can also be placed in a freezer until all moisture is frozen solid.
NOTE: If cleaning, drying or freezing is not practical, restrict equipment to a single water body.
Photos courtesy of the DEC
Rock snot clings to the rocks and the bottoms of rivers, streams and other water bodies. Rock snot has been compared to “brown shag carpet, fiberglass insulation or tissue paper.”