Whirling disease found in Electric Lake

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Anglers are attracted to the Wasatch Plateau in central Utah because there are so many waters. If fishing is slow at one spot they hit the road for a few minutes and try another.

That's great for anglers, but state wildlife officials fear that accessibility will help whirling disease spread rapidly across fisheries on the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) officials announced Wednesday that the trout malady that deforms and sometimes kills young trout was confirmed in Electric Lake.

Whirling disease was discovered in May in Huntington Creek, which flows from the dam at Electric Lake, and fisheries biologists had hoped the cement barrier would help prevent the spread of whirling to the reservoir.

"We've had biologists watch people fishing in Huntington Creek and then head to one of the reservoirs and walk right in with the same waders they used in the creek," said Paul Birdsey, regional aquatics director for the DWR. "If you want to move whirling disease around that's the way to do it."

Electric Lake was once used as a brood stock natural fishery for Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The state has since changed its cutthroat focus to native strains like Colorado River and Bonneville cutthroat, but Electric Lake is still largely supported by natural reproduction. Hybrid tiger trout have also been recently introduced.

Electric Lake is also a popular place for anglers to trap red-sided shiners to use for bait and Birdsey is worried mud from those traps and other gear used at Electric Lake will lead to other fisheries being exposed to whirling disease.

"Anglers need to be that much more careful," he said.

There is no evidence of human health issues in eating trout infected with whirling disease.

Wildlife officials have scheduled nearby reservoirs - Huntington (also known as Mammoth), Cleveland, Boulger and Benches - to be tested for whirling disease. The results will likely be released at this time next year.


Contact Brett Prettyman at brettp@sltrib.com or 801-257-8902. Send comments to livingeditor@sltrib.com.