Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Troublesome algae hits East Branch

Staff report

Hancock, N.Y. – Didymo, the invasive, slimy algae that can
damage aquatic life, is apparently making its way into New York’s
world-famous trout waters.

DEC officials confirmed that the algae has been found in several
locations of the East Branch of the Delaware River, including at
the confluence with the Beaverkill River.

There was also some indication that the mucus-like algae was
present in the West Branch of the Delaware River.

‘There were some didymo particles mixed in with another algae,’
DEC Fisheries Bureau Chief Doug Stang said. ‘And because anglers
generally hop from one water to another, we’ll likely see it in the
Beaverkill, Willowemoc and other waters.’

Didymo algae essentially covers a stream bottom and smothers
aquatic life. It’s been a major problem on New Zealand’s famed
trout waters, and recently took hold in Canada and some southern
states, as well as in Vermont’s Batten Kill river.

New York’s stretch of the Batten Kill saw its first didymo
outbreak earlier this year.

‘It’s problematic,’ Stang said. ‘Aesthetically, it’s a pain in
the neck. It’s a totally new ecological situation for us, and I
would be surprised if it does not extend and we don’t see more
waters infected.’

Although there’s some concern the algae will coat a stream
bottom, kill all aquatic life and, in turn, decimate trout
populations, New York’s battle with viral hemorrhagic septicemia –
VHS – is generally seen as more serious, since that directly
results in fish kills. Already, VHS has been linked to a major
downturn in the St. Lawrence River’s muskie population.

Still, didymo is potentially very damaging to the state’s
storied trout waters. And DEC is undertaking a massive education
and outreach effort to advise anglers, canoeists and kayakers how
to avoid spreading the algae from one water to another.

‘Anglers – and others – need to undertake the practices,’ Stang
said. ‘You need to treat yourself as a potential vector

The algae can cling unseen to waders, boots, boats, lures,
hooks, sinkers, fishing line, and other fishing gear and remain
viable for several weeks under even slightly moist conditions.
Absorbent items, such as felt-soled wader, require thorough
treatment after every outing.

Stang actually advises not wearing felt-soled waders, but admits
‘there’s some safety risk there.’

DEC urges anglers and other water recreationists to ‘check,
clean and dry’ to prevent the introduction and spread of

Before leaving a river or stream, anglers should remove all
obvious clumps of algae and look for hidden clumps and leave them
at the affected site. If you find any later, do not wash them down
drains; dispose of all material in the trash.

They should also soak and scrub all items for at least one
minute in either hot (140 degrees Fahrenheit) water, a 2 percent
solution of household bleach or a 5 percent solution of salt,
antiseptic hand cleaner or dishwashing detergent.

If cleaning is not practical, after the item is completely dry,
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 also can be placed in a
freezer until all moisture is frozen solid.

Currently, there are no known methods for controlling or
eradicating didymo once it infests a water body.

Stang said fly shops have assisted DEC greatly in getting the
word out to the angling public.

He added that in one sense, he’s not sorry to see the fishing
season come to an end.

‘It certainly will help us and give us a little more time to
develop a planned attack,’ he said.

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