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October 31st, 2006, 02:07 PM
This one is pretty serious, especially for those anglers in the 8 Grat Lakes States. Although this doesn't affect people, thankfully, what this disease means to fisheries cannot be good. For those of you who fish with live bait, especially minnows, chubs and perhaps even crawfish, take notice and be aware that perhaps the single-biggest contributor to the spread of VHS from one body of water to another is most likely minnows and other baitfish. Throwing out excess bait should be done on dry land - do not release excess baitfish into your fishing hole, unless the bait CAME FROM THAT WATER. Even then, it is strongly urged and recommended that should you use live baitfish, use only bait FROM THAT WATER YOU INTEND TO FISH.

This surfaced in Lake Ontario this spring, and the fish kill was enormous.

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For Release: IMMEDIATE Contact: Maureen Wren
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 (518) 402-8000

DEC UPDATE ON STATUS OF VHS IN NEW YORK STATE WATERS New Federal Order Issued That Restricts Interstate Transport of Live Fish

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is issuing this update on the presence of Viral Hemorrhagic Septecemia (VHS) Virus in New York State waters and a new federal order that restricts the interstate transport of certain live fish. The virus is a pathogen of fish and does not pose any threat to public health. It was first confirmed in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and has now also been confirmed in Lake Erie and Conesus Lake.

VHS is a fish disease that causes the hemorrhaging of the fish's tissues, including internal organs. Often, fish do not exhibit any external signs of having the disease. The disease affects all sizes of fish and not all infected fish develop the disease, but can continue to carry it and spread it to others. There is no known cure for VHS. The impact of this particular strain of VHS on fish populations is uncertain. It has caused fish mortalities ranging from a few fish impacted to thousands of fish impacted.

While VHS is relatively common in continental Europe and Japan, where it affects both freshwater and marine fish, prior to 2003 the disease was limited in North America to marine species in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In 2005, a die-off of freshwater drum and round goby in Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte (Ontario, Canada) and muskellunge in the Michigan waters of Lake St. Clair was attributed to a new strain of VHS. This is the same strain found in the infected fish in New York waters.

VHS was first confirmed in New York waters in May 2006 when it was linked to the death of round gobies and muskellunge in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. More recently, VHS caused the death of walleye in Conesus Lake. The virus has now been confirmed in round goby, burbot, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, pumpkinseed, rock bass, bluntnose minnow,
emerald shiner and walleye in infected waters in New York State. To date,
the virus has not been confirmed in trout and salmon from these waters and it is unknown whether this strain of VHS will impact these species.

DEC, in cooperation with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, is sampling a number of waters across the State including all waters used as sources of brood stock for DEC hatchery activities to help determine how far the disease has spread in New York. DEC is also exploring options for actions that could be taken to prevent the further spread of the disease in the State.

Due to the potential adverse effects of this disease on fish populations and the desire to prevent or delay its spread to other states, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a Federal Order on October 24, 2006, that prohibits the importation of certain species of live fish from Ontario and Quebec and interstate movement of the same species from eight states bordering the Great Lakes, effective immediately.
The states included are Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Fish species included in the federal prohibition are: Atlantic cod, black crappie, bluegill, bluntnose minnow, brown bullhead, brown trout, burbot, channel catfish, chinook salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, emerald shiner, freshwater drum, gizzard shad, grayling, haddock, herring, Japanese flounder, largemouth bass, muskellunge, Pacific cod, northern pike, pink salmon, pumpkinseed, rainbow trout, redhorse sucker, rock bass, rockling, round goby, smallmouth bass, sprat, turbot, walleye, white bass, white perch, whitefish and yellow perch. Additional fish will be added to the order as they are confirmed to be carriers of this disease. Additional information on the Federal Order can be found on the APHIS website .

VHS can be spread from waterbody to waterbody through a variety of means, not all of them known at this point. One known mechanism is through the movement of fish, including bait fish. To reduce the likelihood of spreading VHS in New York State, DEC encourages anglers and boaters to abide by the following guidelines:

* Remove all mud, aquatic plants and animals from all gear, boats,
motors and trailers before leaving a body of water;

* Drain your live well, bilge and bait tanks before leaving the
fishing or boating water. Anglers or boaters using infected waters should disinfect their live wells and bait wells with a 10 percent chlorine/water solution. Rinse well to remove all residual chlorine;

* Do not transport fish from one body of water to another. Note that
this practice is illegal without a DEC fish stocking permit;

* Only use bait fish in the waterbody it was taken from. Bait
purchased commercially should not be released into any body of water; and

* Do not dispose of fish carcasses or by-products in any body of

The public is advised to contact their nearest DEC regional office if they witness a large number of dead or dying fish (usually 100 or more).
Questions about VHS and potential DEC actions to prevent its spread can be e-mailed to or by calling 518-402-8896. The public is also advised to regularly check the Department website for updated information on VHS in New York State.

October 31st, 2006, 02:31 PM
More and more places are insisting on artifical baits and lures to avoid this sort of thing ... and to prevent invasive species. On my lake in the laurentians, if you're caught with live bait, you lose pretty near everything but the skin you're in.

November 27th, 2006, 11:58 AM
By now, all those in the Great Lakes States are under emergency Federal Regulations aimed at stemming the spread of this new strain of VHS. The new regs took effect on Oct 24. The Federal law governs inter-state transport of live fish, but does little to address intra-state transport of fish, including baitfish. HOwever, each State in the affected areas are moving to implement strict regulations to prevent the spread of VHS, and the hardest hit folks will be the live bait sellers.

In NYS, the DEC has adopted emergency reglations to prohibit commercial bait collection from waterways which have shown VHS. This includes Lake Erie, Lake Ontario (and all tributaries thereof, to the first impassable barrier), Conesus Lake and a variety of other waterways. Further, the regulations limit the amount of bait for personal use at 100 baitfish per person, and any and all baitfish to be used as bait must be collected from the water where the bait shall be used. As follows from the DEC press release of Nov 21, 2006. Regs took effect immediately:

Prohibit the commercial collection of bait fish from waters of the State where VHS has been detected. The rule amends State regulations by removing certain waters impacted by VHS from the list of specially designated waters that allow bait fish to be taken for commercial purposes. A list of waters being removed is attached;

Limit the personal possession and use of bait fish. The rule limits the number of bait fish that may be possessed to a total of 100, as well as restricts the use of bait fish for personal use to the specific water from which it was collected. This rule does not pertain to the possession of bait fish in the Marine District; and

Require live fish destined for release into the waters of the State to be inspected by certified professionals and be certified to be free of VHS and other serious fish diseases. The rule prohibits the placement of live fish into the waters of the State (including possessing, importing and transporting live fish for purposes of placing them into the waters of the State) unless accompanied by a fish health inspection report issued within the previous 12 months. For all species of freshwater fish, a fish health inspection report shall certify that the fish are free of VHS, Furunculosis, Enteric Red Mouth, Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis Virus, Spring Viremia of Carp Virus, and Heterosporis. For salmon and trout, the fish health reports must also certify that the fish are free of Whirling Disease, Bacterial Kidney Disease, and Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus (IHN). The fish health reports must be issued by an independent, qualified inspector, as well as conform with specific testing methods and procedures.

The emergency regulations became effective today - November 21, 2006. Text of the regulation is available at on the DEC website. Hard copies of the rulemaking can also be requested from DEC by writing to: Shaun Keeler, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4750; or by calling DEC at (518) 402-8920.

Bodies of water which are prohibited by county as follows:

List of waters removed, due to VHS, from those where commercial bait fish harvest was previously allowed.
Cayuga County
Fair Haven Bay (Little Sodus Bay)
Lake Ontario
Sterling Valley Creek (from road bridge on Route 104 to Lake Ontario)

Chautauqua County
Canadaway Creek (from mouth to Route 5)
Cattaraugus Creek (from mouth to Route 5)
Crooked Brook (from mouth to Route 5)
Lake Erie
Little Canadaway Creek (from mouth to Route 5)
Silver Creek (from mouth to Route 5)
Walnut Creek (from mouth to Route 5)

Erie County
Buffalo River from mouth to South Ogden Street Bridge
Big Sister Creek, from mouth to Route 5
Eighteen Mile Creek, from mouth to Route 5
Ellicott Creek, from mouth to Route 5
Lake Erie
Little Sister Creek, from mouth to Route 5
Niagara River
Tonawanda Creek/Erie Barge Canal, from Niagara River east to Barge Canal junction near Pendelton, Niagara County
Tributaries to Niagara River on Grand Island, from their mouths to a point 100 feet upstream of the first highway bridge crossing except Big Six Mile Creek, for which Whitehaven Road is the upstream limit

Jefferson County
Beaver Meadow Creek
Bedford Creek
Chaumont River
Cranberry Creek
Crooked Creek
Flat Rock Creek
Fox Creek
French Creek and tributaries
Guffins Creek
Horse Creek
Lake Ontario
Little Stony Creek and tributaries, all above the first road crossing (not including Six Town Pond)
Mill Creek and tributaries, from first road crossing to Stowell Corners
Mud Creek
Mullet Creek and tributaries (Mullet Creek upstream from Route 12)
Muskalonge Creek
North Sand Creek (from the highway bridge in Woodville upstream to the Ellisburg-Adams town line)
Otter Creek and tributaries
Perch River
St. Lawrence River
Skinner Creek and tributaries (downstream from the Lum Road, also called McDonald Hill Road, located approximately 3.5 miles southwest of Mannsville)
South Sandy Creek (from bridge at Ellisburg on Route 193 upstream to Route 11)
Three Mile Creek

Livingston County.
Conesus Lake

Monroe County
Braddocks Bay
Buck Pond
Cranberry Pond
Genesee River (downstream of the lower falls in Rochester)
Irondequoit Bay
Lake Ontario
Long Pond
Round Pond
Salmon Creek (north of Ridge Road)

Niagara County
Barge Canal (west of Lock E35 )
Lake Ontario
Niagara River including the Little Rivers
Tonawanda Creek/Erie Barge Canal (from Niagara River east to junction with Barge Canal near Pendleton)
East Branch Twelve Mile Creek (from mouth to Route 18)

Orleans County.
Johnson Creek (from Kuckville to Lake Ontario)
Lake Ontario
Oak Orchard Creek (from Waterport to Lake Ontario)

Oswego County
Blind Creek and tributaries west of Route 11
Catfish Creek (north of the hamlet of New Haven)
Eight Mile Creek (north of Route 104A)
Lake Ontario
Lindsey Creek to Jefferson county line
first tributary of Lindsey Creek, lower one-half mile
Little Sandy Creek west of Route 11
Nine Mile Creek north of Route 104A
Oswego Canal
Oswego River (downstream of the Varick dam in Oswego)
Rice or Three Mile Creek north of Fruit Valley
Salmon River from Pulaski to Lake Ontario
Skinner Creek
North Sandy Pond

St. Lawrence County
Big Sucker Creek, Towns of Lisbon, Waddington
Black Creek, Town of Hammond
Brandy Brook, Towns of Waddington and Madrid
Chippewa Bay
Chippewa Creek, Town of Hammond
Lisbon Creek, Towns of Oswegatchie and Lisbon
Little Sucker Brook, Town of Waddington
Oswegatchie River (downstream of the dam in Ogdensburg)
St. Lawrence River
St. Regis River, from Helena to the St. Lawrence River, Town of Brasher
Sucker Creek, Town of Oswegatchie
Tibbits Creek, Town of Oswegatchie

Wayne County
Bear Creek
Black Brook
Blind Sodus Bay
Blind Sodus Creek
East Bay
First Creek
Lake Ontario
Port Bay
Salmon Creek
Second Creek (below falls at Red Mill)
Sodus Bay
Swales Creek
Wolcott Creek

November 28th, 2006, 05:39 PM
What the HE double hockey sticks is VHS??? I thought that was the old video tape.

November 29th, 2006, 11:20 AM
What the HE double hockey sticks is VHS??? I thought that was the old video tape.
It stands for Viral Hemmrhagic Septicemia. Basically, for lack of a better description, this is fish Ebola.

We have seen VHS regularly in Europe, in fact the lab which tests for this virus is in Sweden or the Netherlands, if memory serves. Closer to our own home, VHS was detected in 2003 in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, primarily affecting salmon and trout. However, in 2005, a new strain of VHS, this one affecting freshwater ecosystems was first detected in Lake Ontario - Bay of Quinte - when a massive round goby kill was recorded. In May 2006, the St Lawrence Seaway showed a massive fish kill of all sorts of species, including musky, walleye, bass, gobies, drum, and thousands of baitfish, too.

Although no public health threat exists from this virus (fish pathogens are not passable to humans), the economic impact and ecsystem impacts are severe, to out it mildly. It is thought to have been introduced to the Great Lakes chain from the ballast of a foreign freighter, and the malady is being spread, among other means, by anglers through infected live bait.

Scary stuff.