Virus found in Watchaug Pond in Charlestown
PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is advising anglers of steps they can take to minimize the spread of Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV). The advisory comes in the wake of confirmation that largemouth bass sampled from Watchaug Pond in Charlestown have tested positive for LMBV.
DEM offers the following suggestions to minimize the spread of LMBV: • Do not transplant bass from one waterbody to another – it is against the law! • Drain, clean, and dry boats, motors, and fishing gear between each use. • Do not release bait fish into any waterbody. • Refrain from catching and releasing bass during periods of high water temperatures. • Report all fish kills to DEM at 222-3070.
DEM, in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), first began testing bass from Rhode Island lakes and ponds in 2006 for LMBV. The fish have been tested at the USFWS Lamar Fish Health Center in Pennsylvania. The disease has previously been found in Echo Lake in Burrillville and Olney Pond in Lincoln.
LMBV was first isolated in Florida in 1991, and the first large-scale fish kill occurred in 1995 in South Carolina. Since 1995, LMBV has been found in 17 southeastern states and has spread along the Mississippi River and into Lake Champlain. LMBV is a naturally-occurring fish virus that does not pose a human health risk for people who eat or handle infected fish. However, all freshwater fish should be thoroughly cooked before being consumed.
Infected fish may not show any effects of the virus until it is activated by stressful environmental conditions such as high water temperatures, low oxygen levels, droughts, secondary injuries, or bacterial infections. These are conditions which could trigger the virus and potentially cause fish kills. The virus is specific to bass and does not impact any other species of fish. LMBV closely resembles Doctor fish virus and Guppy virus 6, which suggests its origin from Southeast Asia. The common symptoms are hyper-buoyancy, spiral swimming, and lethargy which are attributed to damage to the swim bladder.
DEM will continue to test Rhode Island lakes and ponds for LMBV.
For information of interest to anglers visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for timely updates.