Felt-soled waders and wading boots are usually found in high numbers in states where cold water fisheries draw out of state anglers, like Missouri, but felt can transport invasive species from out of state waters, which is exactly why they had to be banned.

Missouri is a great wade fishing state. We have so many beautiful warmwater rivers and enough cold-water fisheries to make our Midwest neighbors envious. Felt-soled waders and wading boots are usually found in high numbers in states where cold water fisheries draw out of state anglers, like Missouri, but felt can transport invasive species from out of state waters, which is exactly why they had to be banned. 

If you were to wear felt soled waders duck hunting in Louisiana and an invasive species burrowed up in your felt, then you packed up your waders and traveled home to trout fish Taneycomo, that invasive could release into the lake. The invasive could over time change the fishery. It’s hard to imagine a Louisiana weed destroying the Lake Taneycomo, but it could happen.

“Didymo” (Didymosphenia geminata) or “rock snot,” is the main reason why Missouri has banned felt soles. This invasive alga forms large, thick mats on the bottoms of cold-water streams and rivers, reducing the quality and quantity of food vital to fish such as trout. Didymo also clogs water intakes and boat motors. It interferes with fishing gear and eventually makes fishing nearly impossible.

According to former Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Biologist Mark VanPatten, “Didymo is kept in check naturally in other parts of the country and world by lower pH, or acidity, levels in the water. Missouri’s wealth of limestone creates higher pH levels in the water. These higher pH levels can allow didymo to spread unchecked.”

It would be devastating to see the beautiful little smallmouth creeks of the Ozarks and our trout rivers choked with rock snot. 

“Porous-soled waders and wading boots, worn by many trout anglers, appear to be a likely pathway for the spread of didymo,” VanPatten explains. “The soles hold moisture for days and can harbor cells of this alga. Individual cells cannot be seen with the naked eye and only a single cell is needed to establish a stream-killing colony. Anglers who visit waters with didymo can, unknowingly, transfer these cells to the next stream they visit.”

Rubber soled waders are the answer. Although wearing the old fashion rubber soles meant there was a good chance you were going to slip and fall in the water, today’s technology has greatly improved the gripping power of certain soles. Also, screws in studs have become a popular answer to the question of how to maintain stability while protecting the resource. Many wader manufactures are now producing boots with soles specifically designed to ensure stability without rubber soles. 

“Preventing the spread of this invasive species is critical. There is no way to control or eradicate didymo once it gets established in the state,” VanPatten said.

If you plan on wade fishing in Missouri while wearing waders or boots, you can’t do so in felt soled. It’s against the law. You must replace any felt soled waders you have. In the end, the investment is worth it. Our streams deserve your support. 

See you down the trail…

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