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Published on: Jan. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 6, 2010

Northern Snakehead

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Rusty Crayfish

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species. Department biologists are keeping an eye on viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a highly contagious viral disease of fresh and saltwater fish that has caused several large fish kills in the United States. The virus is most active in cold water, which is why most mortality events associated with the virus usually occur in the spring or fall.

VHS is not a human pathogen. There is no known danger to human health associated with this virus, even if people eat fish with the virus. However, we recommend that people thoroughly cook all fish as a precaution.

Fortunately, VHS has not yet been found in Missouri. However, a particularly virulent strain of VHS has reached the Great Lakes region. How it got there is unknown, and each year the range of this virus continues to expand. In 2007, three inland lakes, one each in Wisconsin, Michigan and New York, had kills due to the virus.

Because the virus is so deadly to fish populations, the USDA has implemented a quarantine of numerous fish species from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

Missouri game species susceptible to VHS include bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, rock bass, walleye, muskellunge and trout. Gizzard shad and many other species that game fish prey upon also are vulnerable.

Help Stop the Invasion

You can play a critical role in preventing the spread of fish diseases and other aquatic nuisance species in Missouri by following a few simple steps:

  • Inspect your boat and trailer thoroughly, and remove any trash, mussels or aquatic weeds before leaving any water body.
  • Drain all water from the motor, live-well, bilge and transom wells, and any other water from your boat and equipment before leaving any water body.
  • Rinse your boat, trailer and equipment, including live-wells, bilge, and cooling systems, thoroughly with hard spray from a garden hose, and allow to dry for at least 48 hours. If your boat or equipment was used in zebra mussel-infested waters, use hot (at least 104 degrees) water, like that found at a do-it-yourself carwash.
  • Take special care to clean fishing equipment when fishing known locations of VHS. A light bleach solution (1 cup for 10 gallons of water) is an excellent disinfectant for cleaning equipment.
  • Dump leftover bait in the trash or on land, well away from the water. Other options are to take your bait home to use on a future fishing trip, or

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