Dead, worm-infested fish are washing up along the shores of two lakes in Colorado. 

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), trout and suckers are dying from a confirmed parasite infestation at West and Dowdy lakes in western Larimer County. 

Anchor worm is the culprit, a parasite that causes severe inflammation that results in open, bleeding sores on fish. Infestations can lead to stress, secondary infections, and death. The worms also feed on the fish's gill tissue, which impacts their breathing. 

“We want anglers to be aware of this situation in these two lakes,”CPW Area Wildlife Manager Jason Surface said. “These could be spread around if anglers are not aware of that potential, and they should consider decontaminating waders and other equipment when traveling from these waters to other locations. People can eat the fish after removing the worms and cooking the fish.”

Slow moving waters can favor anchor worm infestations, but it's nothing new, according to officials who say they become "problematic to the fish populations every several years."

Those eating potentially worm-infested fish should look for green, red, or white parasites attached to the body or fins of the fish and in the gills.

Dowdy and West lakes are stocked annually with both catchable (10 inches) and sub-catchable (5-7 inch fish). The lakes are situated above 8,000 feet in Red Feather Lakes, northwest of Fort Collins. 

“It is reasonable to conclude such an infestation of anchor worm alone is capable of causing the observed morbidity and mortality,” said John Drennan, State Fish Pathologist for CPW.

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