Last month in Juneau the State of Alaska Board of Fisheries decided in a unanimous 6-0 vote to ban anglers from wearing felt soled boots in all Alaskan streams and rivers starting in 2012.
Why Ban Felt Soles?
Trout Unlimited and other conservation-oriented organizations have for some time now espoused that anglers do in fact transport bad critters from system to system. It’s easy to understand that felt soled boots track junk around – just ask the person who gets to mop the floor of the dining tent at Alaska West after lunch.
For and Against
There’s been lots of talk over the past year about felt soles, non-felt soles and the impact of each on transporting bad critters from on piece of water to the next. Some folks love felt and some hate it; some thing it’s the most important mode of critter transport while others point out the many others (shoelaces, for example) that haven’t been legislated.
It hurts us to hear from the guy that just had his hip or knee replaced and is afraid that rubber is going to cause him to miss his 57th consecutive salmon season because he thinks his felt soles are safer – or the person that just spent a bunch of bucks on a new pair of fancy boot-foots or the strange fact that the current language only includes “anglers” as the user group that is banned from wading in felt. This ban will definitely hurt some people and maybe it is not fair. We don’t think the ban is meant to be a cure-all – we do think the ban does something proactive about a problem that has had wicked consequences in other places.
We know a lot of people come to Alaska from all around the world to wade around in pristine waters to fish. If one guy was wading in junk one day and then in Alaska the next day – that can spread the bad juju around. Felt takes a long time to dry – most boots worn by staff at Alaska West or BC West or Chile West never dry out during the work season.
We see the logic – we buy in – but we like a ton of the rest of you are going to have to work on the transition. It hurts that a heck of a lot of favorite boot-foots we wear are going to have to be retired – not to mention the 30 or or so pair of loaner boots we provide to our anglers will have to be replaced. Yeah it hurts – but a lot of the time good things do.
What About This Year?
And in case you’re worried about your fishing trip to Alaska this summer, we’ll be really clear –
- Felt soled boots are perfectly legal in Alaska this summer.
- Regardless of what the soles of your boots are made of, make sure you do a really thorough job cleaning off your boots and waders before you pack them for your trip to Alaska. Don’t be the guy who brings along some hitchhikers and ruins an incredible resource for all of us!