NITRO, W.VA. — A sign posted last week at the Nitro boat ramp caused a stir among bass fishermen on the Kanawha River. The sign indicated largemouth bass virus had been detected in the water, but Jeff Hansbarger, fisheries biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources said the sign had been placed there by mistake. The signs were one of a number of informational postings at boat ramps throughout the district and the one at Nitro was removed.
“Largemouth bass virus in District 5 has been found in the East Lynn Reservoir, the entire Ohio River, and the RC Byrd pool of the Kanawha River,” said Hansbarger. “Which would not include the Nitro access, but it would include Buffalo, Leon, and our Point Pleasant ramp.”
Hansbarger admits chances are pretty strong if it’s below the Winfield Lock and Dam, it’s upstream as well. However, ongoing monitoring and study hasn’t yielded a positive case of the virus upstream.
“We are currently testing fish collections and I’m right now looking at 2010 to 2012,” said Hansbarger. “That’s the results we have now, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t change in the future.”
The signs were a series of educational messages for anglers about invasive species as well as largemouth bass virus and the importance of cleaning a boat and livewell before moving to another body of water. Hansbarger said there’s also a need to not transport water or fish from one body to another.
Hansbarger even suggested bass tournaments which cover multiple pools of a river can be problematic.
“That can be an issue and some of our staff are looking at ways and suggestions to not allow that,” he said. “You definitely don’t want to move water from one pool to another. You have it one pool but not another, that’s not to say it’s not there,but our testing hasn’t found it yet.”
The virus has only been around a few years. Hansbarger said it impacts mostly larger fish at times of increased heat.
“It’s really magnified during warmer water. It affects their swim bladder and usually affects larger fish two pounds or bigger,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll see them swimming on top of the water, there are not really any external characteristics or lesions associated with it, you mainly see them swimming on top.”
“It’s relatively new and we don’t know a lot about it. We’re studying it and a lot of other people are studying it, but right now we’re just trying to control the spread,” he added. “It’s a lot like some of the deer diseases, trying to control its spread.”
Hansbarger said there are guidelines posted on signs at the ramps and on the DNR website urging boaters to wash or at least wipe down their boats each time they pull them from the water and to use mild bleach in the livewells to clean them after each use. But he stressed there’s no impact on humans.
“If you follow your normal guidelines and cook them the way you normally do, there’s really no threat to humans,” he said. “It’s a virus that really impacts the fish and doesn’t impact the consumer.”