It may seem like a lost cause when you hear about another new invasive species entering your favorite river, lake, or inshore fishery. After all, how likely is it that an invasive species can be removed once it’s let loose? There’s also the mega “home wreckers” like ocean-going cargo ship bilge water and aquaculture operation fish pen failures that are totally outside of our control. All this may be true, but that doesn’t mean anglers should drop their guard. The fact is, it takes very little to set in motion the undoing of thousands of years of evolution, and it’s often the act of a single person that starts the dominoes to fall.
Some of you are probably questioning my claim that any one of you could cause an ecosystem to either change or fail. In fact, there are multiple ways that we can unintentionally transport a prohibited or non-native species of plant or animal to its new “forever” home. Spreading disease is also much simpler than we once thought. Things like kayak paddles, boat bilges and livewells, landing nets, and even fishing waders can serve as conveyers for the next invasive species or disease outbreak.
Bans on felt-soled waders and wading boots have been controversial. The original research results on felt soles, according to some, was circumstantial. However, we now know that felt can trap 100% of the whirling disease spores to which it was exposed, while rubber soles on boots and waders trapped none. However, that doesn’t mean felt is the only way live didymo cells can be transferred. Leather boot tops and neoprene waders can also convey disease.
Its crucial that anglers clean, inspect, and dry all equipment. That includes waders, boots, fishing rods, and gear boxes that have come into contact with the stream or lake. When shore fishing or wading, follow these four steps every time you pack up at the end of a fishing trip to be sure that unintended hitchhikers are left behind.
• Remove any visible plants, fish or animals from your gear and boots.
• Wash off mud and dirt since it too may contain a hitchhiker.
• Examine your gear closely for even small plant fragments as they may contain a root, seed, egg, or larva.
• Do all this where you were fishing before you head home.
Without doubt, live bait is a highly effective method for catching fish. It is also now evident that many non-native species of baitfish and other bait including some species of worms can cause significant upheaval when introduced into new territory. Non-native baitfish can grow and compete with the native fish populations. They can also harm native fish communities by spreading disease. Movement of baitfish from one water body to another by unknowing anglers is thought to be the primary mechanism by which viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a serious fish disease, has spread from the Great Lakes to inland waters. Follow these four best practices when using live bait:
• Only use bait purchased from a certified dealer of disease-free bait.
• Don’t move bait or other fish from one water body to another.
• Dump unused bait on land at least 30 meters from the water.
• Use baitfish only in waters where their use is permitted.
Boats, kayaks, canoes and even the trailers that we use to transport our fishing craft are capable of conveying potentially invasive species and disease. Lake-by-lake anglers and other weekend-boaters are slowly spreading guests unwanted by both property owners and nature itself. Practice proper etiquette when visiting water bodies and help make sure the welcome mat stays out. Follow these five sustainable boating tips to avoid transporting invasive species and disease.
• Clean your boat and gear before leaving the water by removing mud, vegetation, mussels, or anything suspicious from your boat, motor, trailer or fishing equipment.
• Drain before you leave the launch all water from your boat by pulling the plug on your transom and livewells.
• Dry your boat for 2-7 days in sunlight or clean your boat from top to bottom with hot water over 50°C or pressurized water over 250 psi before traveling to a new waterbody.
• Avoid running the engine through invasive aquatic plants to prevent cutting or pulling loose plants and increasing their likelihood of spreading.
• Never possess, transport or release a prohibited invasive species.
We are all travelling more as we pursue our bucket list destinations and experiences. Further weekend outdoor adventures made possible through new efficient mobility innovations have become the norm. Not even the absence of roads can stop us from reaching our destinations. Along with this ability comes responsibility. Follow the above 14 tips to make sure you arrive free of potentially catastrophic instruments of change and destruction. Small, even things invisible to the eye, can cause untold chaos, we all know that now. By adopting these best practices, the risk of your latest adventure destination becoming ground zero for the next invasive outbreak will be mitigated. It’s what we need to do to conserve nature, and to ensure our grandchildren will have the opportunity to connect with nature as it was meant to be.
Our guest blogger, Lawrence Gunther, is a conservationist and professional angler, outdoor writer, podcaster, blogger, film maker and TV host. To read more editorials like this and to get caught up on the latest sustainable recreational fishing news, visit BlueFishCanada.Ca.
For more details about taking action to prevent the spread of invasive species visit www.invasivespeciescentre.ca/dlillawrence.