Trout anglers should take precautions after discovery of nuisance algae

Staff report

RALEIGH – The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission advises trout anglers fishing in western North Carolina waters to be especially diligent when cleaning their fishing equipment after didymo, a nuisance algae, was found in the Tuckasegee River in Jackson County.

Researchers from Tennessee Tech University collected cells of the microscopic algae while conducting regional surveys in late 2015 — 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 Dec. 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 Aug. 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.

“Always remember to clean and dry equipment, clothing, or anything else that comes into contact with water. In addition, never move live fish from one body of water to another without first obtaining a permit from the Commission.”

For more information about trout fishing in North Carolina, visit the Commission’s Trout Fishing website. For more information about other aquatic nuisance species, visit the Protect Your Waters website.

Staff report

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