Skip to content

Disinfecting Whirling Disease

Rainbow Trout in Net

Whirling disease is spreading throughout the province and with no known cures, it looks like a losing battle. Since the discovery of the disease in Johnson Lake in 2016 it has continued to spread throughout the province and the latest update shows that it’s been found in 4 of the 11 major watersheds in Alberta:

  1. North Saskatchewan watershed
  2. Red Deer River watershed
  3. Bow River watershed
  4. Oldman River watershed

We’ve heard enough about the disease in the media that I’m sure every angler knows its a problem, so what can we do about it? The message from AEP to the public has remained the same; clean, drain, and dry your gear to protect our water bodies but I wonder if that’s the most effective way to manage the disease? The government is going a step further for their employees with three levels of cleaning depending on the waterbody that the equipment was used in.

Level 1: Clean, Drain and Dry your Gear
Clean to remove all dirt and let dry for at least 24 hours, in sunlight is best.

Level 2: Streamside QUAT treatment
After clean, drain, dry is complete the equipment is disinfected using a QUAT solution. QUAT is a commercial grade disinfectant commonly used in hospitals and public areas.

Level 3: Visit a Decontamination Hub
Involves a hot water pressure wash, QUAT treatments and drying out equipment.

As Anglers it’s a good idea to disinfect our gear before moving to a different waterbody and I have been looking for a suitable disinfectant that would be safe for most gear. Of the recommendations I have found the most common and readily available would be a low concentration bleach solution, but since it can lose its potency over time and is not very effective on soils, bleach is not as good as other cleaners.

Parks Canada issued an advisory shortly after the discovery of Whirling Disease in Johnson lake and they recommend the following: “To effectively kill the spores and TAMs, soak all gear and equipment in an ammonium chloride-based cleaner (such as Fantastik® All Purpose Cleaner, or Pine-Sol® Cleaner and Antibacterial). Soak for 10 minutes, wearing rubber gloves and safety glasses to provide protection from the cleaning solution. Rinse with water (preferably hot water). For items too large to soak, try to achieve similar results with a sponge. Wastewater containing cleaner can be flushed into the sewer system in amounts less than 5 liters. For larger amounts, contact your local wastewater treatment plant for proper disposal method.”

For cleaning of a few items I would stick with household disinfectants, such as Lysol or Clorox disinfectant, but for those that fish a lot, such as guides or pros, then consider picking up a concentrated solution and mixing it yourself at home.

Parks Canada Whirling Disease Chart

The QUAT disinfectant that AEP is using is a commercial grade disinfectant meant for use in hospitals, daycares and other public places, it looks like a very good product and when used in low concentrations should not harm our fishing gear, and is available from local distributors such as Gregg and Acklands. Make sure to try whatever cleaning and disinfecting solution you use on a small area of your gear before cleaning everything else with it.

As whirling disease spreads around the province it’s important that we do what we can to stop it. My recommendation would be to avoid the use of gear that is difficult to clean and dry, like felt soled wading boots, nets with foam or wooden handles that are not sealed, and cloth bags. It’s important to remembers to clean, drain and dry your equipment after every outing and regularly wash and disinfect your gear before moving to a new waterbody.

To find out more about Whirling Disease please visit:

A quick Reference pdf of Alberta’s decontamination protocol:

QUAT disinfectant available from 3M:

5 thoughts on “Disinfecting Whirling Disease”

  1. Pingback: Whirling Disease in Alberta - String Theory Angling

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *