Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Disinfect that kayak!

If you go to Isle Royale or the Apostle Islands to paddle this year be prepared to disinfect your boat. The park service has announced some aggressive plans, effective immediately, to help slow or stop the spread of exotic species such as the fish killing VHS virus. They are also banning fishing with any organic bait that does not come from the island. Qeutico Provincal Park, just north of the BWCA, has had a similar ban in place as does the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, although they only have a quarter mile (375m) jurisdiction on waters near the islands. This means you can't use smelt netted in Duluth and frozen, minnows, night crawlers, or spawn bags. You can still use that delectable (for fish anyway) white belly fat from recently caught lakers, always an effective fish attention getter.

I can't argue with this precaution. I'm just wondering how they will enforce it. On Isle Royale there are really only 3 spots to get your kayak transported out to the island (Houghton and Copper Harbor, MI and Grand Portage, MN) so that should be fairly simple. In the Apostles the rule only applies to boats launching from park land. This would mean if you launch from Red Cliff you don't need to worry about it but if you launch from Meyers Beach you do. Also, none of the boat launches for the larger motor and sail boats are on park land so I'm not sure that this will be anything more than a symbolic gesture. Practically, its an easy thing to do. 1/4 cup of household bleach in 2 gallons of water is the normal formula for killing nasty things in homebrewing equipment and this should work well for a boat wash also. A quick wipe with your bilge sponge and you're golden. Or just roll the boat in the pool; that will kill anything including a few of your mucous membranes. I noticed our paddles on the Mississippi River so far this year have left a noticeable scum line on my boat, most of which is organic material that probably should not be moved between bodies of water.

I'm not sure if the rangers at the park landings will be enforcing these rule or just how it will work; that remains to be seen. I'll make a couple phone calls, check out the logistics, and follow up on this post. I read in this mornings paper that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was ordered by a judge to begin regulating ballast water released from ships in Lake Superior to help stop the spread of exotics. Right now the only ship on the lake that treats its ballast water is the RangerIII, the park service boat that shuttles people out to Isle Royale. Stopping the spread of these exotics is an idea whose time has definitely come and we kayakers need to do our part to help with the problem.

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