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Utah Department of Wildlife Resources Warns Anglers of Whirling Disease

Utah Department of Wildlife Resources

The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources has warned the state’s anglers that whirling disease has been found in fish in a northeast Utah creek.


Jones Hole Creek is a small Utah fishery about 25 miles northeast of Vernal. The DWR announced on Friday that fish in the creek have tested positive for whirling disease, which is a parasitic disease that attacks the cartilage of fish’s head and spine.


The disease was first discovered in Utah in 1991 and in the Green River in 2011. Jones Hole Creek flows into the Green River and is also the site of a national fish hatchery.


The disease primarily affects trout and salmon species, in particular rainbow trout, which are found in many fisheries across the state.


Symptoms of the disease include peculiar whirling motions of swimming fish, black-colored tails, and even death. If a fish does survive, they may develop skeletal deformities and neurological damage. The disease does not affect humans.


According to the DWR, the affected fish are all rainbow trout so far, none of the brown trout samples were found to have the disease, and no fish at the hatchery were found to be affected. The hatchery does not take water from the creek.


The DWR is asking all anglers to help stop the spread of the disease and published a list of steps to take.


Anglers should not fish Jones Hole Creek upstream of the hatchery and avoid using felt-soled wading boots, as parasites can easily imbed themselves into the felt and be transported to other bodies of water.


Additionally, after fishing, rinsing off all mud and aquatic plants stuck to boots, waders, and any other equipment and then allowing them to dry in the sun will help get rid of the parasite.


Anglers should not transport any fish -- dead or alive -- from one body of water to another and be sure to not enter a new body of water before thoroughly cleaning their equipment.


More information on whirling disease and fishing regulations in Utah can be found here.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.
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