The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is banning felt soles in Maryland waters beginning March 22, 2011 to protect and preserve native wildlife and habitats.
The new regulations are an effort by the state to combat didymo, an invasive form of algae which thrives in cold flowing waters such as trout streams. Once didymo takes hold, it can bloom into infestations of enormous numbers resulting in a yellow-brown mass that may dominate sections of a river. Over time, dramatic changes in stream biology are probable, and the thick mats of algae make fishing virtually impossible.
DNR biologists found didymo in Gunpowder Falls in 2008 and responded with educational efforts, adding wader wash stations at popular access points on the river.
In 2011, a didymo bloom occurred in the Savage River. Didymo is not a human health risk, but the dense mats of algae may negatively impact bottom dwellers such as crayfish, mayflies and stoneflies.
“Felt is porous and can remain damp for weeks, keeping harmful microscopic organisms alive and making it virtually impossible to disinfect,” said Jonathan McKnight, head of DNR’s invasive species team.
According to Maryland DNR, boots featuring rubber soled are readily available from various manufacturers at most outdoor retailers.
Maryland is encouraging anglers and stream lovers to remove all debris and water from their boats, clothes and gear before leaving a stream. In addition to the new regulations, the state is providing anglers with wader wash stations to clean their boots and gear before heading to another body of water.
According to MD DNR, officers will initially issue a warning and an information card to anyone wearing felt-soled boots or waders.
For additional information on didymo, the felt ban and how to resole your boots/waders with the new rubber compounds, visit http://dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/pdfs/felt_sole_faq.pdf