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Bleach vs. Clean and Dry

by Rudy Rios

Aquatic nuisance species(ANS) and aquatic invasive species (AIS) is getting a lot of attention recently with the discovery in the Pecos of Didymo or commonly referred to Rock Snot. Any and all ANS need to be handled and disposed of in a manner which is not only effective for the watershed, but also for the effective ease of those stockholders (you), of the watershed.

ANS are introduced by either escape or release into the watershed environment. Some come as Hitchhikers, and some come as Specimens. We are only dealing in this article with those which are Hitchhikers.

Hitchhikers include SPORES, PARASITES or other HIDDEN species which may escape into or from the local watershed.

Because ANS are generally microscopic in nature, it very difficult to “see’ whether you have properly cleaned your equipment (vectors) including fishing gear, boots, wader, float tubes, vest, sandals, socks, line, reel, boat, canoe, and even vehicle. Not one recreational stockholder is ever responsible for any particular contamination, but could even be a result of nature. Since we can’t control all aspects of nature then we must focus on the issues at hand. Those issues of contamination of any ANS have been spelled out in Kevin Reilly’s article for cleaning and drying all vectors. Due to the nature of the Whirling Disease Foundation and The Federation of Fly Fishers release of a statement about not using BLEACH to help decontaminate all potential vectors because of the potential for contamination at the streamside.

The EPA, and other environmental agencies which have had a bigger role in establishing the decontamination procedures for several states and federal agencies ARE RECOMMENDING THE USE OF BLEACH to decontaminate as well as Cleaning and Drying.

Cleaning and Drying are very important to anglers to reduce the spread and introduction of ANS and are simple steps, adding bleach to the equation is only the final step.

Here are some thoughts or Best Management Practices adopted by other states;

  1. Follow an appropriate disinfection procedure before traveling between different bodies of water or watersheds;
  2. Conduct visits within a single watershed in a single day;
  3. When possible Fish Downstream;
  4. Designate sets of waders/boots for different watersheds known to have ANS;
  5. Consider using easily disinfected wading gear. Example – Rubber soles are easier to clean than felt;
  6. Visually inspect your gear before leaving the watershed. On-site removal of all plants, plant fragments, organisms, organic material, mud, or other foreign materials;
  7. Drain any water from your float tubes, etc before leaving infected area;
  8. Thoroughly rinse to remove any additional smaller debris with water from which you are exiting.

DO NOT fish one stream and then walk to the next stream over with wet gear which has not been properly decontaminated.

Once you have arrived home, the second phase of your disinfection will begin.

Use a solution of Common household bleach(Clorox), and fresh water in a container of adequate size for this procedure.

A 2% solution is adequate to disinfect gear of all pathogens of hard and soft sided objects. 13 oz of Bleach to 5 gallons of water or 2.5 oz to one gallon will make you a 2% solution.

To get the larger quantity mix, take a five gallon bucket, dump in a little more than a soda can of bleach and then on the outside of the bucket draw a line. Now you can forget about having to use a can again. Now most five gallon buckets hold almost 6 gallons so you can take a plastic milk jug and drop in five gallons of fresh water using your jug as the measuring device. Draw another line. Your done. Mark next to each line what the line is meant for so someone won’t use the bucket to wash the car. To properly immerse boots or waders you may have to split that 5 gallons between two buckets.

“Quat” (Quaternary Ammonia disinfectants) maybe used also in a 2% solution but most fishermen don’t have ‘QUAT” laying around the house.

Hard items must soak for at least one minute, no less. Five is best.

Soft items such as felt soles, clothing, sandals, or anything else that takes time to dry out should be left for thorough saturation. 15-30 minutes will suffice. Ouat works better here because it’s a surfactant but takes longer(makes water wetter by lowering the tension of the surface of the liquid)

Once items have been saturated and allowed to sit in the solution for the correct amount of time, it is time to rinse off. Take another bucket with fresh water and rinse the items until no smell of chlorine is present on the item when you use Bleach.

Now allow the gear to completely dry.

The used and possibly contaminated water should not be dumped down the drain as this might introduce a pathogen to a non-contaminated area and the bleach could contaminate a water source. To neutralize the bleach solution use Anti-Clor (chlorine remover for pools), following Mfg’s directions.

Disposal of liquid should follow local restrictions

Bleach solutions must be replaced every 24 hours as the solution will no longer be effective after this time lapse.

If both cleaning and drying and a disinfectant solution are used to eliminate or kill pathogens and ANS/AIS then New Mexico will continue to have the clean waters and abundant fish populations we have grown accustomed to.

Tight lines.