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Invasive Algae Found in WNC Trout Waters

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Researchers from Tennessee Tech University collected cells of the microscopic algae while conducting regional surveys in late 2015. This is the first time the organism has been documented in North Carolina. Didymo, also called rock snot, is the common name of Didymosphenia geminata, a freshwater diatom species that can produce thick algal mats along stream bottoms. The mats can be so thick that they alter stream habitats and make fishing difficult.

Because didymo can be spread easily from waterbody to waterbody, Commission biologists recommend that trout anglers take the following steps to avoid spreading the algae: Remove any visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting equipment; Eliminate water from equipment before transporting; and clean and dry anything that comes into contact with water.

The Commission has a dedicated Angler Gear Care webpage that lists other steps anglers can take to help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species, including how to properly disinfect fishing equipment. The confirmation of didymo in the Tuckasegee River marks the third time in a little over a year that an aquatic nuisance species has been discovered in western North Carolina. In December 2014, gill lice were found for the first time in North Carolina on brook trout in the Cullasaja River in Macon County. Another species of gill lice, this time affecting rainbow trout, was found in August 2015 in three water bodies in Haywood and Watauga counties. And in July 2015, whirling disease, a parasite affecting trout, was confirmed for the first time in the state in rainbow trout collected from Watauga River near Foscoe in Watauga County.

The appearance of these aquatic nuisance species is concerning to fisheries biologists because it highlights the ongoing and increasing threat that aquatic nuisance species pose to the state’s aquatic resources. “Aquatic nuisance species — either plants or animals — are organisms that cause ecological and/or economic harm if established,” said Jacob Rash, the Commission’s coldwater research coordinator.  “It is important that we all work to help prevent the introduction and spread of these nuisance organisms by being good stewards of our State’s aquatic resources that we all care for and enjoy.

Most trout anglers fish in several different waters on the same day or subsequent days. That’s why it is so important to clean and dry all equipment when changing waters. Also, don’t transport and release trout from one river to another. The WRC has done a great job of offering trout waters with a national reputation in our region. Let’s protect them by following all the above recommendations.

On the national level the Bipartisan Sportsman Bill, S. 659, made more progress during this legislative session than it ever has before. I’ve written about this important legislation which will strengthen the hunter and angler role and access in managing federal lands. Among other things it requires federal land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, to follow an “Open Until Closed” policy. In the past animal rights and environmental groups have used federal policy to try and restrict sportsman access to federal land for hunting. This provision requires that federal land must be open to hunting unless wildlife managers find cause to close them. The Bill also has a provision that prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from restricting use of lead in ammunition; something environmentalists have tried in the past.

As you read this there are only about three weeks remaining in the hunting season. Except for goose which ends February 13th, it’s all small game for the remainder of the month. Good chance to get out there and do some late season squirrel, rabbit, grouse or quail hunting. I know a lot of grouse hunters who say this is the best month to find birds if the weather cooperates. A lot of people are no longer hunting so you may find you have the woods to yourself. As for grouse, any cold weather also tends to concentrate birds in small areas increasing your chance for multiple flushes. So let’s get out and enjoy the next three weeks!

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