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Entries in snakeheads (14)


Although Not as Lethal, LMBV Still in Our Waters

Bass infected with LMBV appear normal, unless the disease turns lethal.

For the majority of bass fishermen, Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) is out of sight and out of mind, and has been for more than a decade.

But it's not out of our waters.

Is that reason for concern?

Yes. And no.

No, we aren't seeing numerous die-offs related to the virus that occurred for about a decade during the late 1990s and early years of this new century. And there's no reason to believe that's going to happen again. For example, it has not turned lethal in Saguaro Lake, where it was found in 2010. That discovery made Arizona the 19th state to detect the virus in its fisheries since 1991.

But it's still out there, and, yes, it still can kill, as evidenced by a die-off attributed to LMBV at a small Indiana fishery in 2012. It was the first documented in that state since 2001 at Hamilton Lake.

"Although the die-off was disappointing, it was not devastating," said biologist Neil Ledet, who accurately pointed out that nothing can be done to eradicate the virus."But we want to document where it causes fish kills," he added.

About the same time, resource managers reported finding the virus in four West Virginia fisheries.

Two years before, fisheries managers attributed LMBV as the cause for the decline in both catch rates and size of bass caught in Kerr Lake/Buggs Island on the Virginia-North Carolina border. “We’ve seen some declines in the growth rate, and it’s taking longer to catch a 5-pound fish,” biologist Dan Michaelson said. “But the big key has been the increase that we’ve seen in mortality. Since 2004, it’s up 10 percent, and that’s a lot.”

He added that testing also showed LMBV was present in bass in both the Roanoke/Stanton and James River drainages. "We're going to have to look around some more," he said.

More recently, biologists confirmed that northern snakeheads taken from two Potomac tributaries were infected with the virus. That might seem a good end for a bad fish that could cause the decline of bass and other native species.

But as we learned a decade ago, fatalities aren't always a foregone conclusion. In fact, the exotic fish simply could be carriers for spreading LMBV to bass throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Over the years, the virus has been found in other species as well, but, thus far, only in bass does it sometimes evolve into a fatal disease.

Why that is the case is one of many specifics that we still don't know about LMBV, including its origin, its means of movement from one water body to another, and why it proved fatal so often for about a decade, but since has leveled out to little more than a foot note--- albeit an intriguing one-- in fisheries management.

"The fisheries management community largely ignores it now," said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director. "It's not the threat it first seemed to be. It did not wipe out bass everywhere. And it's pretty species specific, unlike VHS, so it doesn't get much attention anymore."

By contrast, viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus has caused massive die-offs of several species, including bluegill, black crappie, drum, gizzard shad, and muskellunge, mostly in the Great Lakes. It also has been confirmed in smaller kills of smallmouth bass and walleye, and more than a dozen additional species have been identified as carriers.

VHS seems the most lethal in colder water, which is just the opposite for LMBV. Both are among more than 100 naturally occurring viruses that affect fish, but not warm-blooded animals.

"LMBV was suspected to be a new virus that evolved from a virus that infects amphibians, as I recall," Gilliland said. " Bass had no natural immunity to it so it spread quickly via who knows what means of transport.  It has now runs its course in most places. Although it can be found in many populations, apparently immunities have built up and so far, the virus has not mutated enough to cause additional fish kills.

Still, we have educated guesses regarding the specifics of LMBV, thanks to annual seminars that B.A.S.S. convened until 2004. At those sessions, fisheries experts from around the country shared information and developed strategies for dealing with the outbreak. For example, they theorized that "stressed" bass seemed to be most susceptible and anglers likely aided in spreading the virus by moving fish and/or water in their livewells.

You can read about their findings and conclusions in a "fact sheet" posted at


Snakehead Numbers Decline

Maryland DNR photo Good news from the snakehead front, as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that catch and distribution of the exotic predator in the Potomac River was lower in 2013 than in 2012.

In announcing the finding from the Tidal Bass Survey, biologist Joe Love said, “The 2013 observations represent the first decrease in catch and distribution since the species was first discovered in the Potomac River (2004). It is not clear whether the cause of the decline is increased angling effort or other factors.”

But angling effort has increased considerably in recent years, aided by initiatives from both DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Additionally, the state is providing more incentive for catch and harvest of snakeheads by instituting a state record program and including an invasive species category for awards in the Maryland Fishing Challenge.

Not all the news regarding snakeheads is good, however, as two adults were captured by electrofishing for the first time ever in the Wicomico River. Anglers had reported catching them there as early as 2011.

“It appears that it takes two years between angling reporting and collection by Maryland DNR’s Tidal Bass Surveys,” Love said.

Additionally, adult snakeheads were collected from the Patuxent, in numbers similar to 2012.

“Based on suitable habitat for northern snakehead and the population estimate, we calculated that there were about five per acre of suitable habitat,” the biologist explained. “Reports for Little Hunting Creek and Anacostia River ranged from four to nine northern snakehead per acre.”

The invasive fish also was collected “in relatively small numbers” from the Rappahannock, Rohde, Blackwater, and Nanticoke Rivers.

A small snakehead was captured in a trap from a ditched area that connects the Blackwater to the Little Choptank. This suggests that the fish could use this pathway to also colonize the latter, the biologist said.


Asian Carp Just One Big Leap From Lake Michigan

After being introduced into the Mississippi River, Asian carp will be kept out of the Great Lakes in the same way that snakeheads were kept out of the Delaware River system after they were introduced into the Potomac, and in the same way that zebra mussels were kept out of the rest of the country after they were introduced into the Great Lakes.

In other words, Asian carp won’t be kept out of the Great Lakes, and a billion-dollar sport fishery could be devastated as a result of that invasion.

Here’s the latest chapter in this saga that has only one ending but a multitude of plot twists on the way to the climax:

A 53-inch, 82-pound carp (probably a bighead) has been found in an Illinois lake less than 1,000 feet from the Calumet River, which flows into Lake Michigan.

Read the rest of the story here.

Don’t expect Burmese pythons to stay in the Everglades either. Oh, and, by the way, there’s another big snake on the block, courtesy of an unregulated and irresponsible pet industry.


Snakeheads in the Big Apple?

Snakeheads might be lurking in waters of New York City’s Central Park.

I’m sorry about this, but this is just the way my mind works: When I first learned of this, I couldn’t help but think of the song made famous by Frank Sinatra.

I want to wake up in that city 
That doesn't sleep 
And find I'm king of the hill 
Top of the heap 

 And how about this? 

If I can make it there 
I'll make it anywhere 
It's up to you 
New York, New York

I hope that’s not true in regard to snakeheads. 

Here’s the New York Times’ take on the hunt for snakeheads in Central Park.


Thirty Invaders Bite the Dust in Python Challenge

Thirty Burmese pythons have been killed so far in the Florida Everglades as part of the Python Challenge that began Jan. 12.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that eradicating pythons is not the goal of program, which ends Feb. 10. Rather, wildlife officials hope to raise awareness about the snake’s threat to native wildlife and the fragile Everglades ecosystem. Also, they believe that the hunt will help them collect valuable information about the exotic predator’s habits so that it might be better controlled.

By the way, plug "pythons on the loose" and "alligators on the loose" into a Google search if you want to get an idea of the problem that we have in this country with irresponsible pet owners and an under-regulated exotic pet industry. They're also the ones that introduced some of our troublesome aquatic plants, including Eurasian watermilfoil. Likely, they are responsible for snakeheads as well.