Do Your Part to Stop Whirling Disease (from the WWW)

Whirling disease is not just a Colorado problem. The known distribution of the whirling disease parasite in Montana is expanding all the time, and given the traveling habits of many fly fishers, the threat of further distribution is quite real.

Since you may not know if the parasite is present in the water you are fishing in, assume that it is and take precautions not to spread it. And remember, whirling disease is not the only threat out there. There are plenty of other disease-causing organisms and aquatic pests just waiting to be carried to a new environment.

Clean and dry your boots, waders, and other fishing equipment, including boats, before going from one body of water to another. If you get the mud off and your equipment is clean and dry, you greatly reduce any threat of spreading whirling disease, other parasites, disease-causing organisms, and other aquatic pests.

Common sense and routine cleaning is probably sufficient to eliminate the threat of spreading disease with your equipment. It may not be necessary to disinfect your boots and equipment with chemicals.

However, if you do wish to disinfect your boots and waders, chlorine is probably the best chemical to use. Very light doses of chlorine will kill the waterborne stage of the whirling disease parasite and most other disease-causing organisms. But it takes a fairly strong concentration of chlorine to kill the mature whirling disease spore that may be found in the mud from an infected stream.

A 50:50 solution of household bleach (one part water to one part chlorine bleach) will kill whirling disease on contact (you can dip waders into a solution of the bleach or wipe or spray it on). Or, you can use a weaker 10 percent solution (1 part chlorine to 9 parts water) and soak your equipment for 10 minutes.

Either way, make sure you rinse the chlorine off your waders and other equipment after you disinfect it. Chlorine is a very strong chemical and prolonged exposure can harm your equipment.

For more information on whirling disease, try this Web site:

L. Pace Bonner

Return to October 1998 Newsletter