Photo courtesy of Department of Environmental Cons
Unlike many other aquatic invasive plants, Rock Snot grows on the bottom of both flowing and still waters. It is characterized by the development of thick, gooey mat-like growths — which can last for months — even in fast flowing streams.
 
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SARANAC LAKE — Didymo, also known as Rock Snot, is an aquatic algae that looks like brown or white fiberglass insulation and can take over the bottom of river beds.

So far, this invasive species has been found in three rivers in New York state: the Batten Kill in Washington County, East and West Branches of the Delaware River and the Esopus Creek in Ulster County.

Unlike many other aquatic invasive plants, Rock Snot grows on the bottom of both flowing and still waters. It is characterized by the development of thick, gooey mat-like growths — which can last for months — even in fast flowing streams. In addition to making footing difficult, didymo can impede fishing by limiting the abundance of bottom dwelling organisms that trout and other species of fish feed on.

Because Rock Snot often occurs on the bottom of streams that are popular fishing spot, it can be transferred from one fishing location to another. A fisherman may spend a Saturday fishing the Esopus Creeka and then head up to the West Branch of the AuSable the next day. In the proccess, he or she may unknowning have some of the invasive Rock Snot caught under a felt bottom boot and may transfer it from one body of water to another.

And if that happens, unfortunately, there are no known methods for controlling or eradicating didymo once it infests a water body, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

One of the problems with Rock Snot is that because it spreads and takes over the river bottom, it can have a negative effect on the habitat of aquatic insects. This, in turn could affect the fish, who rely on the insects as food.

The domino effect could be significant, and even have economic effects, as some local businesses rely on fisherman as a main source of revenue.

“The presence of didymo in another popular New York waterway highlights the crucial need for people to be diligent in preventing the spread of invasive species,” Commissioner Pete Grannis said in a recent DEC press release. “Invasives can have a devastating impact not only on the environment but also the economy. I urge all outdoor enthusiasts to help out by adopting the ‘Check, Clean and Dry’ method for limiting the accidental transport of didymo and other invasive species from infected waterways to other water bodies.”

Tips for not

spreading Rock Snot

Anglers, kayakers, canoeists, tubers, boaters and others engaging in water-based recreation can unknowingly spread didymo. The microscopic algae can cling — unseen — to waders, boots, boats, clothing, lures, hooks, fishing line and other equipment and remain viable for several weeks even under seemingly dry conditions. Absorbent items, such as felt-soled waders and wet suits, require thorough treatment as outlined below.

Water recreationists are urged to use the “Check, Clean and Dry” method to limit the spread of invasive species.

Check — Before leaving a river, stream or pond, remove all obvious traces of algae and look for hidden clumps and leave them at the affected site. If any is found later, it should be disposed of in trash receptacles, not washed down drains.

Clean — Treatment varies. The solution needs to completely penetrate thick, absorbent items such as felt-soled waders and wading boots.

For non-absorbent items, try these methods:

¯ Detergent or salt: Soak or spray all surfaces for at least one minute in a five percent solution (by volume) of dishwashing detergent or salt (seven ounces of detergent or salt added to a gallon of water).

¯ Bleach: Soak or spray all surfaces for at least one minute in a two percent solution (by volume) of household bleach (three ounces of bleach per gallon of water).

¯ Hot water: Soak for at least one minute in very hot water (140 degrees F — hotter than most tap water) or for at least 20 minutes in water kept at 115 degrees F (uncomfortable to touch).

For absorbent items, longer soaking times are required. Use these methods:

¯ Hot water: Soak for at least 40 minutes in water kept above 115 degrees F.

¯ Hot water plus detergent: Soak for 30 minutes in hot water kept above 115 degrees F, containing five percent dishwashing detergent.

Dry — If cleaning is not practical, after the item is completely dry to the touch, wait an additional 48 hours before contact or use in any new 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.

¯ If cleaning, drying or freezing is not practical, restrict equipment use to a single water body. DEC encourages anglers to consider alternatives to felt-soled waders such as rubber studded boots.

ALSO, it is especially important that any gear used out of state be treated before use in New York waters.