The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has discovered a potentially deadly parasite to fish in one of the state’s most popular trout fisheries.
Whirling disease spores were found in two of 60 kokanee salmon that were collected from Strawberry Reservoir near Heber City this fall, the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune reported.
While the disease can be fatal to small trout and salmon, DWR officials said they’re encouraged because it primarily affects fish much smaller than most found in the reservoir. They also said that many of the rainbow trout and Bear Lake cutthroat trout in the reservoir are more resistant to whirling disease than others.
“The disease is not a fatal blow to the trout fishery at Strawberry,” said Roger Wilson, chief of the division’s aquatic section. “There is life after whirling disease.”
The disease can be moved by anglers, boats, flowing water or birds, and does not harm humans. Its name came from the whirling motion that fish often swim in before they die from the disease.
Wilson said the DWR had expected the disease to make its way to Strawberry, and had been taking steps to address it.
“Rest assured that we’ll continue to take the appropriate steps to ensure the continued quality of Utah’s most important cold water fishery,” he said, adding much has been learned about how to counteract the disease’s effects on a fishery since the mid-1990s.
DWR also will look at how the disease might affect cutthroat and kokanee salmon that spawn naturally in Strawberry’s tributaries. Kokanee salmon are particularly susceptible to whirling disease.
Veteran angler Byron Gunderson was not surprised by the discovery of the parasite.
“It was just a matter of time,” he said. “I don’t think it will have that big of an effect on Strawberry.”
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