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DNR wants anglers to help stem contagious bass virus

State fisheries officials say there is no sign that the virus that caused recent largemouth bass kills in two Virginia lakes is a threat here, but they caution anglers to be careful in how they handle fish and gear.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologists have determined that Largemouth Bass Virus was responsibile for large fish kills at Kerr Reservoir and Briery Lake. The virus, which poses no harm to humans, has not been implicated in fish kills nationally for nearly a decade.

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Over the last decade, Maryland Fisheries Service biologists have detected the virus in routine testing of bass populations.

In the Potomac River, three of 14 samples tested positive for the virus: two sites on the tidal river and one smallmouth bass site near Sheperdstown, W.Va.

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Largemouth bass also have tested positive in the Nanticoke, Choptank and Patuxent Rivers and Triadelphia Reservoir. The virus has not been identified in Upper Chesapeake Bay largemouth bass.

But despite its prevalence, the virus has not been linked with any Maryland fish kills.

Virginia and West Virginia have identified the virus in their waters and Pennsylvania biologists have found infected young of year smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River.

Don Cosden, DNR's Inland Fisheries Director, says the Maryland largemouth bass population is in "excellent" condition, with catch rates at recent Potomac River tournaments "some of the highest we've seen over the last decade."

"We encourage everyone to enjoy the fishing while being vigilant in avoiding transporting fish, debris, bait and potential problems from one place to another," Cosden said.

LMBV spreads by fish to fish contact, through the water or by fish eating infected prey. Infected bass populations typically take three to four years to recover from major contamination.

DNR Fisheries Service biologists offer these guidelines:

Never transfer live fish from one body of water to another.

Never discard fish parts or unused bait in any body of water.

Drain water from live wells, bilges, engines, bait buckets and hoses and pumps before leaving the launch area and clear mud, vegetation and debris from trailers.

Disinfect live wells daily and particularly when moving between bodies of water. Spray or wipe all surfaces with a chlorine solution of three tablespoons of household bleach in one gallon of water. Let sit for five minutes, then rinse with clean water and flush through lines and pumps.

Cosden urges anglers to report dying or dead bass, or bass that are swimming poorly in circles near the water's surface by calling the Maryland Department of the Environment at 800-285-8195 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the work week or 877-224-7229 after hours.

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Report a largemouth bass kill to DNR Tidal Bass Manager Joe Love at 410-260-8257.

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