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
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
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
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)