Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

August 17, 2013

I felt like this might happen

There is a lot of information on the Internet about didymo or rock snot, the algae that gets on the bottom of trout streams.

Didymo, or didysnot as my friend and fellow columnist Dave Long calls it, is commonly referred to as being an invasive algae. Yet there are numerous scientific websites that state didymo is native to North America, specifically to the United States.

So, I’m thinking, how can a native organism (get your mind out of the gutter, I said organism) also be invasive. I thought the term invasive was reserved for something such as Japanese knotweed. Or maybe ring-necked pheasants are invasive. Brown trout, too. After all, neither is native to the U.S.

Maryland state government likes to be first in things. Seems to me that it doesn’t matter if the subject has been well thought out or not as long as Maryland is the first to do something about it.

For example, Maryland was the first (and still only) state in the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture to tell its anglers that they can’t use a worm to catch a brookie and even if they catch a brookie on a fly or spinner they can’t keep it.

Maryland is trying to be the first state to give all of its inmates free iPads in an attempt to reduce recidivism. You can’t make this up. As “Hee Haw” star Junior Samples said, “Truth is stranger than fact.”

The iPad idea comes from Attorney General Doug Gansler.

Tell you what, Doug, give me one of those iPads and I promise I will continue to be a law-abiding citizen of Maryland.

And, as we all know, Maryland was the first state to tell license-buying fisherpeople they can’t wear felt soles. Why? Because it will spread didysnot from one stream to another. I have never seen a state agency’s decision that reached any further into the wallets of residents and merchants more than this one, and without sufficient reason.

Some anglers who contacted me when this change was coming down said they had just written three-digit checks for new waders with felt soles.

So, now there is scientific opinion surfacing that says didymo is widespread in the country’s streams, but only gets activated when a certain water chemistry exists.

Has to do with the levels of phosphorous, not the number of felt soles.

Maryland is among the country’s leaders in feel-good laws and regulations. As long as California exists, we’ll never be number one. We try harder, though.

The Maryland Firearms Safety Act of 2013 is a prime example.

Now, mind you, Maryland’s natural resources police officers don’t deal in phosphorous levels. Their code books only address the wearing of felt soles.

Our neighboring states have some didysnot.

West Virginia DNR has confirmed the algae in Seneca and Gandy creeks, Gladys Fork and Elk River. Were felt soles outlawed?


Mike Shingleton, director of coldwater fisheries, has said his staff checks on rock snot from time to time and it isn’t getting worse.

“We believe that the high flows in streams dislodge it and the low flows of summer expose it to the air, both of which keep it from getting worse,” he has said. “We’ll keep an eye on it. I think it is mostly an annoyance to anglers.”

Ron Klauda of the Maryland DNR said about a week ago that so far in 2013 didymo has not exploded in the streams where it has been confirmed.

“For example, the didymo bloom we saw in Big Hunting Creek below the lake  in April and May last year did not show up this past winter-spring,” Klauda wrote in an email.  “Also, didymo blooms in the Gunpowder have not been particularly large so far in 2013. And I’ve heard similar reports for the lower Savage areas where didymo has been found.”

So, I’m trying to digest this and here is what I come up with.

Rock snot is occurring and not occurring at about the same level in a state that bans felt soles as in a state that doesn’t ban them.

Within the past few weeks, didymo has been confirmed in the Pennsylvania portion of the Youghiogheny River. Felt soles are legal in the Keystone State.

I asked Klauda if that heightens concern that it will get into the Maryland portion of that river. I wondered if the dam at Youghiogheny Reservoir would act as an upstream barrier.

“Since it’s more likely that didymo gets moved around by anglers, kayakers, and canoeists than on fish or the feet and legs of waterfowl and wading birds, the dam and the reservoir on the Yough in Pa. are not likely to serve as barriers to didymo,” Klauda answered. “So there is always concern that the portion of the Yough in Md. will become infested.  Fortunately, so far, we haven't found didymo in the Md. Yough.”

Better check the phosphorous level. Either that or ban kayaks and canoes.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at


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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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