Is Whirling Disease Coming North?

Photo Courtesy of Steve Stoner – Boulder Mountain – Southern Utah

A trout languishing weakly on the bottom begins to twirl, looking as if it is chasing its tail. Up it goes, possessed, whirling round and round until its dizzy ascent takes it right to the top. Exhausted, it floats listlessly back down to the bottom, near death. “That, is how it got its name.” This is whirling disease, a parasitic scourge that is devastating trout populations throughout the United States and is it coming this way?

Whirling disease is a parasitic infection which attacks juvenile trout and salmon. Rainbow trout and cutthroat trout appear to be more susceptible than other trout species. Brown trout become infected with the parasite, but they appear to have an immunity to the infection and have not been as greatly impacted as rainbow trout. Studies in Montana and at the University of California-Davis have demonstrated that grayling and bull trout are very resistant to infection.

Aquatic organisms can be accidentally moved from water body to water body. Undesirable species, parasites and diseases can upset the delicate balance of ecosystems and cause irreversible damage to native fish populations and valuable sport fisheries. Whirling Disease is the suspected cause of recent trout population declines in Montana. Whirling Disease is not yet detected in Alberta or B.C.

Fishermen that fish in the US are at high risk, do your part:
Remove mud and plants from all of your gear before leaving your fishing site.
Drain all water on site and dry your boat and fishing equipment between locations.
Leave live fish, plants and other aquatic animals where you found them.
Whirling Disease thrives in polluted and damaged habitats.

So let’s not forget the bigger picture.
Get involved locally in protecting fish habitat.


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