By Dillon Thomas

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers in northern Colorado are warning of a potential spread of parasites in Colorado lakes if anglers don’t take the proper steps to decontaminate their gear. Anchor worms in West and Dowdy Lakes, near the town of Red Feather Lakes, reemerged recently.

The parasites can be deadly to fish and could cause illness to humans if consumed.

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The parasites, which have lived in the two lakes for many years, thrive off of the abundant fish populations in the two connecting lakes.

(credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife)

“Both of those lakes have high densities of fish, various trout species, and also suckers. And that is what an anchor worm, or a parasite, lives on,” said Jason Clay, a spokesman for CPW. “At Dowdy Lake it has been going on for about a decade or so.”

Humans are safe while fishing or recreating in the two lakes. By decontaminating fishing gear or properly disposing of infected fish skins, humans can continue to fish in the lakes.

“It is okay to eat that fish still so long as you pull off those worms and cook the fish properly,” Clay said.

Anglers are asked, if they keep a fish, to dispose of the parasites and infected skins in the trash, rather than returning it to the waters. The parasites can kill fish.

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(credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife)

Josh Hubbard, a regular angler in the Dowdy Lake area, said he noticed some fish had signs of parasites while fishing.

“The fishing is good. You’re not going to catch anything huge here. But, you’re going to have a good five-to-six fish day,” Hubbard said. “A few of the fish I have caught do have a bit of sores on them. Nothing gross or big.”

CPW said the parasites, which have been in the lakes for years, can be rid of. While chemicals can be used, the size of the lakes would make the process costly.

CPW could also rid of all fish from the lakes, removing the food source for the parasites, but that choice would be unpopular among those who enjoy the outdoors. CPW has not determined how they will rid of the parasites yet.

However, while they work on a plan, Clay said the community can help prevent the spread of the parasites.

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“Decontaminate your waders so you are not spreading it to other lakes in the region,” Clay said.

Dillon Thomas