Biology, Conservation, Legislation & Regulations > Bass Biology & Management

Fish Virus in the Detroit River/Lake St.Clair?

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var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true}; A few bass died. Quite a few large muskies died. Tons of sheephead died, especially in Sandusky Bay. I believe some perch took a hit too.

I have not personally seen it, but have talked to fisheries biologists about it. Like I said, 27 different species of fish were found to have the virus last year. St. Clair and Erie were hit the most. I totally forgot about the large number of waterdogs that also died. Now I can't recall what that was - I think there is an earlier thread somewhere on the board dealing with that.

All the biologists I've talked to said as long as you do what you should always do - thoroughly cook your fish, you have nothing to worry about. I don't make a habit of eating fish with external sores. I wonder that badly infected fish would be much to catch or look at. The virus does cause a lot of internal hemorrhaging.

I will be reporting a lot more on VHS very soon.

A few weeks ago I attended a Regional Fishery Workshop in Ludington. Gary Whalan presented a session on Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Rhabdovirus-VHS. The virus causes large scale hemorrhaging in internal organs and affects osmotic regulation. (Inspection of the liver and kidneys would reveal lots of blood.) There are not many external symptoms. The speaker did liken the virus to Ebola, however the virus is not a human pathogen. Thoroughly cooking the fish is always recommended.The virus does the most damage in water temps between 40 and 50 degrees. It appears that 58-60 degrees is the upper limit of its viability. The virus isn't real hardy, but it can last up to 2 weeks in ovarian fluid.
If you find a fish and suspect that it has VHS don't freeze the fish. Keep it alive if possible and ice it at the very least. It is fairly costly for the DNR to test these fish, however. Once the fish dies it quickly decomposes and it is very difficult to test then for VHS.
The virus is known to have killed muskies in Lake St. Clair, Drum and Perch in Erie, and Gobies in Lake Ontario. These are confirmed cases. They aren't really sure how the virus will affect each species of fish. The charter boat folks are obviously very interested on how it affects salmon. It appears some species are more susceptible than others to the virus.
It is here and we will have to deal with it. The prognosis is that it will take 2-4 years to find its way into Lake Michigan unless it is transported in balast water or spread by anglers carrying bait or transplanting fish from one body of water to the other. With that said the spread could be very rapid. Because the virus isn't particularly hardy,  leaving gear in the sun for 4 hours and using a solution of bleach water in your livewells and bilge areas, should kill the virus. As was said by Lt. Dan the state is working on emergency regulations and they will be out before the spring fishing season. Not to overstate the obvious, it is extremely important not to transport bait or fish from one body to another. If you need more info. the number to call, and I believe that you would be getting Mr. Whalan, is 517-373-6948. There will be info on the DNR website soon.

Great info Thanks D&D...

I'm not freaking out (yet) however,  I wonder how much a lake like Kent Lk. is at risk (not to forget it is part of the Huron River system) due to it's size and location (35 minute ride from Erie/Clair)?


On my way home from work tonight I was listening to NPR and they had a report on VHS confirming cases in Lake Huron for the first time.

There are fish that migrate long distances through the Great Lakes. The MDNR only expects to slow it down, but we can help keep it from getting into inland lakes like Kent.


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