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Task Force Investigates Latest Fish Incidents In Shenandoah River Watershed

June 6, 2006

Richmond, Virginia The Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force is investigating ongoing reports of fish deaths and fish with lesions in the Shenandoah watershed during spring 2006.

In the North Fork Shenandoah, numerous smallmouth bass and sunfish with lesions have been found and a significant number have died. The cause is unknown. These problems began in March and continued through May in the lower North Fork, generally downstream of the Woodstock area. There also was a brief fish kill involving smallmouth bass and sunfish in the lower South River near Grottoes in April.

The task force has received no reports of fish deaths in the South Fork Shenandoah this spring. During fish collections in late May, however, about 20 percent of smallmouth bass and sunfish on the South Fork were found with lesions. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Department of Environmental Quality will continue to monitor these species.

Also in late May, a large number of northern hogsuckers died in the mainstem Shenandoah between the Route 7 and Route 50 bridges in Clarke County. The task force is investigating the cause of this fish kill and has collected dead and live fish for examination. Though there were no lesions on the dead hogsuckers, the task force did find lesions on redhorse suckers, some smallmouth bass and some sunfish.

The U.S. Geological Survey is studying these fish at its laboratory in Leetown, W.Va., and is conducting fish health studies on samples collected earlier from the Shenandoah fish kills.

The task force also is working with fishery and environmental agencies in West Virginia in Maryland, where fish kills involving suckers have been reported this spring on the South Branch of the Potomac and the mainstem Potomac. Most of the dead fish have been redhorse suckers, though some northern hogsuckers also have died. These kills are similar in timing and types of fish to the one on the Shenandoah River in May.

The task force, let by DEQ and DGIF, continues to pursue a number of investigations into water quality and fish health. Preliminary results from these studies have not identified a specific cause of the fish kills, but they suggest that several stress factors affecting fish may be involved. The task force is developing a plan and budget request for continuing this work through 2007.

The task force encourages anyone seeing unusual conditions or problems with fish to contact the DEQ Valley Regional Office at (540) 574-7800. For more information, contact task force co-chairs Don Kain, DEQ, at (540) 574-7815 or Steve Reeser, DGIF, at (540) 248-9360.

 

 
 
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