Whirling disease spores found in Strawberry Reservoir; officials optimistic

Published: Friday, Dec. 2 2011 3:34 p.m. MST

HEBER CITY — Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources have discovered evidence of a parasite that can cause whirling disease — which is potentially fatal to fish populations — in Strawberry Reservoir.

The parasite was discovered in two out of 60 kokanee salmon that were collected from the reservoir and tested by biologists this fall, according to a release issued by the DWR Friday. The disease does not impact humans, but can kill small trout and salmon.

The name of the disease comes from the fact that the fish that contract the disease often swim in a whirling motion before they die.

The disease typically affects only those fish that are smaller than 8 inches in size and kokanee salmon are especially susceptible, according to the DWR. Still, biologists believe the reservoir will continue to be "one of the country’s best trout fishing waters."

“The disease is not a fatal blow to the trout fishery at Strawberry,” Roger Wilson, chief of the division’s aquatic section, said. “There is life after whirling disease."

In fact, Wilson said the DWR expected that the disease might work its way to the reservoir and was "already taking steps to address the situation."

Wilson said attempts were made to contain the parasite and, now, efforts will be made "to ensure the continued quality of Utah’s most important cold water fishery.”

He said in the release that he was encouraged by the fact that the disease mostly affects fish much smaller than most found in Strawberry and the fact that many of the rainbow trout and Bear Lake cutthroat trout currently in the reservoir are more resistant to whirling disease than others.

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