Angling: entertainment or threat?

Due to modern day transportation, anglers can easily fish a variety of rivers in the course of a day's travel. It is alarming that just a single, traveling angler has the potential to infect a half dozen waters.

The NYSDEC has confirmed the presence of the invasive algae didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) on a number of major sportfishing rivers in New York state.

The algae, known to persist on the main Delaware River, as well as the East and West Branch, had also infected the Batten Kill. Most recently, it's presence was confirmed in the Esopus Creek in Ulster County.

Currently, didymo is not known to be present in any other New York waterways, but it's spread is certain to continue. There are no known methods for controlling or eradicating didymo once it infests a water body.

It has already devastated the trout streams of New Zealand, where it is considered a dangerous enough biosecurity threat that there is a penalty of up to 5 years in jail and $100,000 for knowingly spreading it.

Several rivers in Vermont and New Hampshire, including the upper Connecticut, the White River, Mad River and the Batten Kill are infested with the snot.

Unlike most aquatic invasive plants, didymo can grow on either flowing or still waters. It carpets stream bottoms with a thick, gooey carpet-like growth, thus it's nickname.

In addition to making footing difficult, didymo can rapidly limit the abundance of bottom dwelling organisms, such as the crayfish, leeches and insects that provide fish with feed, such as caddis, stone and may flies.

Anglers, kayakers, canoeists, tubers, boaters and others engaging in water-based recreation can unknowingly spread didymo.

A single cell of the microscopic algae can cling to waders, boots, boats, clothing, lures, hooks, fishing line and other equipment, where it can remain viable for several weeks, even under seemingly dry conditions.

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