State making certain hatcheries are clean

Columbus – Now that viral hemorrhagic septicemia has been found
for the first time outside of the Lake Erie drainage, the key is to
keep it out of Ohio’s fish producing hatcheries.

Factors that could affect the fish at Clear Fork Reservoir,
where muskies tested positive for VHS (Ohio Outdoor News, June 20),
are at the mercy of Mother Nature, said Ray Petering, fisheries
administrator for the DNR Division of Wildlife.

But, biologists can do their part to keep the disease from
moving from lake to lake through hatchery stocked fish.

Brood muskies from the Clear Fork stock are typically taken to
the fish hatchery in London where more muskies are produced.
Muskies for stocking are also produced at the state’s Kincaid
hatchery in southeast Ohio.

As a result of the VHS finding at Clear Fork, which was just
recently confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal
Plant and Health Inspection Service lab in Iowa, it will likely be
off limits as a brood source for muskies for the next several
years, Petering said.

“Right now, we’ll be looking at our Kincaid fish to be our fall
stocking program for muskies,” he said.

Eggs from Clear Fork that are already at the London hatchery, if
they test negative for VHS, could be stocked back into Clear Fork,
but the rest of the state will be served by the Kincaid
hatchery.

All this could pose a dilemma for fisheries biologists this fall
when muskie stocking swings into full gear.

“Depending on how everything plays out, it could be somewhat
tight,” Petering said. “We’re probably looking at having 14,000 to
15,000 available at stocking time from Kincaid. From there, it
depends on whether we can use the London fish or not to take care
of Clear Fork.”

A typical fall sees 25,000 muskies stocked at about 10 lakes
across the state. Clear Fork gets about 1,000 advanced fingerlings
per fall.

Another factor thrown into the mix is that East Fork Lake
outside of Cincinnati and Lake Milton in northeast Ohio were
designated the next Ohio muskie lakes and are scheduled to be
stocked this fall (Ohio Outdoor News, March 14).

“Next year, obviously, we won’t be using Clear Fork as a brood
fish lake,” Petering said. “We’ll lean on (brood stock) from Salt
Fork a little bit harder, and we also might look at one of our
other program lakes.”

Fisheries biologist will have to come up with a plan, Petering
said, as temporarily shutting down the program isn’t an option.

“What we’re trying to do here is strike a balance between
environmental stewardship while also recognizing that you have
license buyers and fisheries programs that people depend on,” he
said. “So, you have to flavor your decision making with some common
sense.

“There are those out there who would say ‘Well, you shut
everything down and go home,'” Petering said. “But, the people who
say that aren’t the ones that have constituents to answer to. We’re
trying to be responsible and balance trying to maintain our
programs while also trying to keep this stuff from spreading and
very definitely keeping it out of the hatcheries.”

There are already precautions in place in attempt to keep
diseases out of the hatcheries, Petering said. Eggs are treated
with iodine after they are taken from the females in attempt to
keep VHS in particular from transmitting from fish to fish.

“The problem with that is that there hasn’t been enough research
to prove if that is effective or not,” Petering said.

VHS is a disease, Petering predicts, with which Midwest
fisheries biologists will have to get used to dealing. It’s just
like humans who adapt, change, and treat new diseases as they
appear, he said.

“When VHS has been around long enough for enough fish to be
exposed to it, some die and the ones that don’t develop antibodies
and immunities,” he said. “It’s going to be an interesting
evolution as far as management of this stuff goes in the Great
Lakes region and outside of that when it travels that far.”

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