Does Clean, Drain and Dry Really Work?

WD Life CycleIt seems so simple, almost too simple, how effective are the clean, drain and dry actions in preventing the spread of whirling disease and invasive species?

From oars to inner tubes and flippers to waders, any gear used in water can spread whirling disease or invasive species. By their very nature, aquatic diseases like whirling disease have qualities that allow them to spread and survive adverse conditions. For example, the whirling disease parasite is microscopic and survives in the environment up to 30 years. Whirling disease impacts fish populations, in the Western United States whirling disease caused up to 90% declines in wild fish populations.

The Clean, Drain and Dry practices provide simple and effective direction on how to prevent the spread of whirling disease and aquatic invasive species. 2017-08-21- Clean Drain Dry Your Gear-Web Ads-1200px628p_FacebookCleaning and draining remove microscopic aquatic organisms and the plants and mud that can shelter them. The best place to clean and drain is before leaving the shoreline, avoid draining near connections to waterbodies like storm drains or ditches. Always remember to “Pull the Plug” before you transport your watercraft. It’s mandatory in Alberta, you want to drain your boat not your wallet.


Rubber boots, hiking boots and boots used for angling can all transport mud. Picture is a Government of Alberta taking the first step in Clean, Drain and Dry.

By cleaning and draining our gear we set the stage for the third step, drying. Taking a fish out of water is the same thing as taking microscopic aquatic organisms out of water, they don’t like it. Aquatic organisms are sensitive to low humidity and high temperatures so drying severely impacts them. While 24 hours of drying time in sunlight is recommended the more drying time the better.


Scientific studies show dirty gear, like boots and waders, can spread whirling disease. In one study, felt-soled wading boots covered in mud spread whirling disease to healthy trout populations. Another study found angling boots moved on average 8.39 grams of mud, it would take about 27 anglers to move one pound of mud between waterbodies.

Credit - 'Mark Adkinson, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine'

Microscopic photo of a spore stage of the parasite that causes whirling disease, the spore stage looks like a grappling hook and is coming into contact with the skin and fin of a fish.

Thousands of microscopic whirling disease spores could be present in a single gram of mud let alone a pound. The numbers get daunting when we consider how many anglers Alberta has and how few fishable lakes. With 800 fish-bearing lakes and 300 lakes stocked with trout, on average Alberta has about 375 anglers per fishable lake. By comparison, Saskatchewan has 1.9 anglers per lake. If all 375 anglers decided to visit a different lake they could introduce almost 7 lbs of mud. While not every angler uses wading boots, this example really illustrates how human actions can add up.



A Brown Trout from one of the 300 trout stocked ponds in Alberta.

Cleaning, draining and drying are some of the best steps we can take to protect Alberta waters. Whether you work or play in Alberta waters, these waters are ours and ours to protect. Let’s take care of them and Clean, Drain and Dry our gear!


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4 thoughts on “Does Clean, Drain and Dry Really Work?

  1. How many kilograms of mud are transported throughout our East Slope streams by tires on OHVs?
    Why is the government focusing on stocked lakes, when the most damage is to native trout in rivers and streams?
    What is the potential for bait fish and live leeches sold for angling, to spread this disease and others?
    What is the potential danger of the pet fish trade to spread whirling or other diseases?

      • I’m suggesting ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ and recognize the other invasive species & disease threats to native fish. I forgot the most important threat is probably infected commercial fish farms, licensed by the Dept of Agriculture, that have the opportunity to spread diseases all over Alberta. I support ‘Clean, Drain, Dry’ but the govt should provide the public with more information about the threat from fish farms and the pet fish trade.

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