Red Feather Lakes, CO. After the discovery of a nasty parasite infection at Red Feathers’ West Lake
last summer, I’d hesitate before drilling a hole this winter in the popular northern Colorado pond. But the situation doesn’t appear nearly as severe at the adjacent, larger, Dowdy Lake
. In fact, Dowdy should “still be a solid ice fishing option," according to Kyle Battige, Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist and anglers’ friend.
For those unfamiliar with the situation at these two popular destinations northwest of Fort Collins, anglers in late July first reported sick and dying fish at 38-acre West Lake. Pathologists at CPW’s aquatic health laboratory identified the culprit as anchor worm, a really nasty parasite that causes severe inflammation resulting in open bleeding sores on fish. The females of the damned things permanently attach themselves to fish, leading to stress and cell damage and secondary infections, and mortality. And the immature stages of the anchor worm feed on gill tissue.
It is a problem that reoccurs periodically in some slack waters including the two U.S. Forest Service lakes. CPW also says people can eat infected fish after removing the worms and cooking completely. (Though after seeing some of those poor trout first hand, I for one am not that hungry.)
Battige says anchor worm "can lead to mortality (but) it is not necessarily the ultimate end point for all fish. We have had anchor worm issues in the past and not seen the mortality issues that we did this year at West Lake." He adds, there’s “no good solution to eradicating anchor worm from the system,” but we’ll start with decreased stocking density.” He says Dowdy didn’t experience the infestations and related issues that popped up at West. In fact, the state was able to stock Dowdy
with additional trout at the end of August, rounding out planned stocking for the season, but canceled remaining plants at West.
“We need to firm up decisions on management moving forward,” he says, “but there is not a good solution to eradicating anchor worm from the system. So my thoughts right now are to decrease stocking density at both lakes and see if that helps. But again, that isn’t the final decision necessarily.”
So, I wouldn’t recommend a West Lake ice fishing trip soon. But Battige says Dowdy “did not see the related die off that West Lake
did, and should still be a solid ice fishing option.”