Deadly parasite “Whirling disease” impacting fish in Northeast Tennessee

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A parasite discovered in Northeast Tennessee is having a major impact on Brown Trout in Tennessee rivers. Thousands of fish in the Watauga and South Holston tail waters are in danger and its because of Whirling disease.

While parasite does not directly impact humans the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency wants the public’s help with stopping the spread of the disease. 

“What happens is the parasite comes in contact with the trout or the salmon and effects the nervous system of the trout or the nervous system of the trout, ” TWRA Streams and River biologist Sally Petre said.

Test were done on fish in the Watauga and South Holston rivers last March. Those test results recently came back positive for Whirling disease. 

“Today we haven’t seen any fish exhibiting the signs or what not but we are aware that it is here,” Justin Schillaci 

Justin Schillaci has fished these waters for the last five years with his family. He like other fisherman we spoke with were familiar with Whirling disease thanks to TWRA officers.

“At least I know if I see a fish doing something funny I know this is what it is and this is what they are dealing with,” Justin Schillaci 

Petre says there are things fisherman can do to help stop the spread of the disease. 

“So wether it be your kayak, your boat, your waders your fishing equipment, we want you to clean drain and dry your equipment,” Petre said.

She also says its important to not transport live or dead trout from one body of water to another. Also, be mindful and dispose of fish parts carefully when cleaning trout. 

TWRA officers say these simple steps could save thousands of trout in the region. If you happen to observe signs of Whirling disease in fish then TWRA officers want to hear from you, email them TWRA.WhirlingDisease@tn.gov

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