One spore makes Crystal River Hatchery whirling-disease positive |

One spore makes Crystal River Hatchery whirling-disease positive

Post Independent Photo/JIm Noelker

CARBONDALE ” The discovery of a single whirling disease spore put the Crystal River Hatchery on the state’s list of whirling-disease-positive hatcheries.

The discovery marks the first time whirling disease has been found at the hatchery, which is located just south of Carbondale.

Colorado Division of Wildlife officials announced on April 16 that they found a fish with one spore of the parasite that can cause whirling disease ” Myxobolus cerebralis.

Hatchery technicians said because of strict regulations set by the DOW, it only takes one spore to classify the entire hatchery as positive. More than 4 million of the tiny spores can fit on the head of a pin.

“This is the first time that I know of that it’s been tested positive,” Crystal River Hatchery wildlife technician Don Lechuga said Thursday. “It was kind of a surprise to us.”

It could take up to four years to lose the whirling-disease-positive classification, he said, because hatcheries must be tested whirling-disease-negative multiple times before being reclassified.

Out of 20 trout that were tested for the parasite two weeks ago, just one trout was found to be infected.

“So they came back on Tuesday and increased the sample size to 60,” Lechuga said.

The tests on those 60 trout aren’t yet completed, so it’s hard to tell just how widespread the problem is.

“From this perspective, we’re still operating on a day-to-day basis,” Lechuga said as he and fellow wildlife technician Rod Bland stood knee-deep in water, cleaning one of the hatchery’s fish raceways.

Lechuga said hatchery staff believes the infection might have come from nearby irrigation water. He said that water could be getting into the spring that produces the hatchery’s water.

“It’s piped, but we must still be getting some seepage somewhere,” he said.

Lechuga said the biggest effect the whirling disease discovery has had on the hatchery is a revision of its stocking schedule.

“We’re no longer stocking the Crystal River or Marble,” Lechuga said. “A lot of our fish will go into Denver-area waters.”

The DOW is careful not to introduce potentially infected trout into waters where fish breed. The ponds and lakes where the fish will be stocked ” considered class “C” waters ” are cut off from all river systems and fish don’t breed there.

“That’s one of the steps they’re taking to keep us out of the loop,” Lechuga said.

Although the discovery of whirling disease is not good news for the hatchery, Bland put a positive spin on it.

“I had to take the 20-inch trophy fish to the city ponds,” he said. “There’s a big difference with a 10-year-old kid between a 10-inch fish and a 20-inch fish, and that’s what this job is all about, to see the smile on a kid’s face.”

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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