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Disinfection Techniques for Fishing and Boating Equipment

If your boating and fishing equipment cannot be dried before its use in another body of water, it must be disinfected. Disinfection recommendations vary depending on the type of equipment and disease of concern. Be particularly aware of bilge areas, livewells and baitwells in boats. These areas are difficult to dry and can harbor invasive species. A summary of recommended cleaning materials and techniques are provided below. For an in depth description of how to clean, dry and disinfect various boats and boating equipment download A New York Boaters Guide to Cleaning, Drying and Disinfecting Boating Equipment (341 KB PDF) .

Effective disinfection techniques include:

Hot water pot

Hot Water: Hot water is an effective disinfection agent for all aquatic invasive species and fish diseases. While many of the invasive clam and mussel species can detect other disinfection agents and avoid them by tightly closing their shells, they cannot protect themselves from the effects of high temperature. Soak all equipment in water kept above 140°F (hotter than most tap water) for 10 minutes or for 20 minutes in water that is at least 110°F. Note that hot water can delaminate Gore-Tex® fabric and damage other sensitive clothing items. Household steamers may also be used for disinfection by exposing equipment to steam for 10 minutes. Some commercial hot-water car washes can be effective for disinfecting boats and vehicles, but many do not heat water hot enough for proper disinfection.

Bleach bottle

Bleach: Bleach is also a very effective disinfectant agent, but it is a caustic substance that can be corrosive to aluminum and other sensitive fishing and boating equipment. Soak or spray equipment for at least one minute with a 2% bleach solution (3 ounces of household bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water). If whirling disease is suspected, a 10% solution should be used (13 ounces of household bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water).

Bags of potassium chloride

Potassium Chloride: Commonly used as a substitute for calcium chloride in home water softeners, potassium chloride (KCL) is a very effective cleanser for boats and equipment used in waters containing zebra or quagga mussels. It also does not have the corrosive side effects of some other cleaning agents. A 200 ppm solution is recommended (one teaspoon of dry KCL salt crystals in 2 gallons of water). KCL salt crystals can be purchased at any home improvement or hardware store selling water conditioning products. Given the non-corrosive attributes of KCL, it is particularly useful in cleaning engine cooling systems and other corrosion prone areas.

Sample active ingredient label
Look for disinfectants that contain alkyl
dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride.

Cleaning Agents: Of the materials traditionally used to disinfect for human or animal health purposes, quaternary ammonium compounds have been found to be effective in controlling fish viruses and pathogens, including whirling disease. Commercial formulations, such as Parvasol® and Kennelsol®, are available through laboratory or veterinary supply companies. Household cleansers/disinfectants, such as Formula 409® and Fantastic®, that contain the quaternary ammonium compound alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride can also be used to disinfect equipment. These solutions can be used full strength as a spray, or diluted for soaking with 2 parts water to 1 part disinfectant. For all materials, follow label instructions and be sure to soak equipment for a minimum of 10 minutes. Be sure to dispose of materials away from surface waters in accordance with label restrictions.

Special Note to Wading Anglers: Felt-soled waders and wading shoes, which have been identified as an important means by which whirling disease spores and didymo can be transported, are difficult to disinfect. Rubber or studded soles are now readily available that provide similar traction, and are much less likely to transport these invasives.