Sea Lice – Not Leeches….
Let’s do a quick review, prompted by many sincere requests from folks who have caught steelhead and were unsure if they were seeing sea lice on the fish – or not.
This is an especially troubling question for anglers who have not caught very many fish and who catch a kelt, a spawned-out steelhead, that has re-chromed and is enroute back to the ocean.
Kelt steelhead present the dilemma of appearing shiny and are often carrying many external parasites. The novice angler, having heard about “sea lice” associated with “bright” fish, might well be confused.
So, nuthin’ like a photo, right?
These are freshwater leeches, parasites acquired after freshwater residence. They are dark brown to blackish wormy lookin’ things with little sucker mouths that tend to attach under pectoral fins or near the anal fin, but they could take refuge from the current behind any fin.
These are sea lice on a fresh-from-the-salt salmon. Note that they are translucent-white. Note that some have lost their tails, but that a few of the very long tails remain attached.
Sea lice that have lost tails, turned dark gray or brown, are dying after being out of the salt for several days.