West Virginia DNR Fish Health Survey Discovers Presence of Largemouth Bass Virus in Four Lakes

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Recent fish health surveys conducted by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources revealed the presence of largemouth bass virus (LMBV) in four West Virginia lakes, according to Bret Preston, assistant chief of the Wildlife Resources Section.

Surveys performed during the summer and early fall of 2011 were focused on monitoring overall fish health in water bodies where WVDNR staff collects broodstock for hatchery production. Several species of fish were collected from 10 water bodies and samples were sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lamar Fish Health Laboratory for analysis. 

Virology and bacteriology results were negative for targeted pathogens except for LMBV at East Lynn (Wayne County), North Bend (Ritchie County), Stonewall Jackson (Lewis County), and Sutton (Braxton County) lakes.  Fish health surveys also were conducted at Mount Storm (Grant County) and Moncove (Monroe County) lakes and Little Kanawha (Wood County), Monongahela (Monongalia County), Tygart (Barbour County), and New (Summers County) rivers. 

“Largemouth bass virus is a common pathogen found primarily in southern United States largemouth bass populations, but has been expanding throughout North America,” said Chris O’Bara, WVDNR fisheries research biologist.  “LMBV has not been linked to any human health concerns but, as always, fish should be properly prepared prior to eating.”

Largemouth bass populations infected with LMBV have experienced summer die-offs, depressed growth, and less than optimal health condition. LMBV is more problematic during summertime and elevated stressful conditions. The spread of LMBV has been linked to increased stress, fish to fish contact , and movement of fish and water between water bodies.

To minimize the spread of LMBV and all fish pathogens, WVDNR encourages anglers not to transfer any live fish or water between water bodies, handle all fish with care prior to release, reduce stressful conditions especially during warm water months, and properly clean and maintain all boats, live wells, and tackle.

WVDNR staff will continue to monitor fish health statewide and expand the survey into several new water bodies in 2012, according to O’Bara.  Results of the 2011 survey, as well as future surveys, will be provided on the DNR website at www.wvdnr.gov.