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ANGLER AWARENESS : Why Are Felt-Sole Boots Banned in Alaska?

Posted on November 28 2018

“Think ahead, save a watershed.” Photo: Tosh Brown

In 2012 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game passed a regulation that banned all felt or other “absorbent fibrous materials” on boot soles while sport fishing in the fresh waters of the state.  It has been almost 7 years since this regulation was first passed, is it still in effect?

The answer is yes but many anglers do not understand why.  The simple answer is that felt or other absorbent soles provide a greater chance of introducing or spreading invasive species.  These boot materials may provide better grip while wading, but they also are a pathway to introduce nonnative organisms like didymo cells, zebra mussels, and whirling disease. Even after proper decontamination methods were taken, viable invasive organisms have been found trapped in felt soled boots. Rubber boots are an alternative that not only trap far fewer organisms, they can also be more easily cleaned and successfully decontaminated. 

Humans are responsible for most all of the transportation of aquatic invasive species. The Department of Fish and Game has adopted the slogan, “Think ahead, and save a watershed.” Even if using rubber soled wading boots the ADF&G suggests the following guidelines to be taken on all fishing gear and boats before bringing them into the state.

“To protect Alaska’s waters and native aquatic species, please follow these guidelines:

1) CLEAN — Rinse and remove any mud, sediment, and/or plant debris from all gear, boats, and boat trailers, floatplane rudders and floats, and anything that comes into contact with the water. Separate all pieces of wading footgear and waders (remove liners, etc.) to check for and remove visible mud, sediment and/or plant debris before leaving the area. Use a stiff bristle brush to clean all fishing gear.

2) DRAIN — Empty all water from coolers, bilge pumps, buckets, and wring out gear before leaving the boat launch or fishing areas.

3) DRY — Completely dry gear between waterbodies or trips. Equipment that remains damp can harbor small particles of invasive species that can remain viable for weeks. If drying gear completely in not possible-decontaminate!

4) DECONTAMINATE — Freeze gear until solid or wash gear in 140°F hot water scrubbing with a stiff bristle brush. If drying, freezing or heating gear is not feasible, use a 2% bleach solution to clean gear away from fresh water recreation sites. Spray or rinse gear for one minute. A 2% bleach solution can be made easily by mixing 2.5 oz. of chlorine bleach with tap water to make 1 gallon of solution.

NOTE: Bleach solutions may degrade gear made of absorbent materials. Please rinse gear on land, away from fresh water fishing areas and dispose of disinfectants as indicated on the label.”

Obviously aquatic invasive species can be transported through gear other than just wading boots but if as anglers, we can help reduce the risk by switching up our wading boots, it seems that is a sacrifice we should be able to make.  Felt definitely offers a better grip when wading those large Alaskan River’s like the Naknek but one thing that we have found to help improve the grip on your rubber wading boots are the removable “crampons” made by Patagonia.  There is still a lot of research being done on the transportation of invasive aquatic species but if switching up our wading boots can help avoid the introduction of a potentially harmful species, we are all for making the change!

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