Week of September 8, 2008

Fishing beyond the Great Lakes




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Fishing beyond the Great Lakes

Snakehead invades Arkansas

Biologists fear they will be able to spread into the St. Francis, Arkansas and Mississippi rivers

The northern snakehead, an aggressive fish native to Asia, has been found in Lee County and could colonize the lower White River basin.


A voracious predator, the northern snakehead looks similar to a grinnel, or bowfin, which is native to Arkansas. It thrives in slow, murky backwaters such as those found in the Mississippi River Delta region of Arkansas. It is prized as a delicacy in Asia, but it is destructive in wild, nonnative environments. Reproducing populations are also in Maryland and Virginia.


Of particular concern is the snakehead’s eventual impact on the valuable black bass, crappie, bream and catfish resources in southeast Arkansas.


“This is some of the worst news we could get as fisheries biologists,” said Mark Oliver, assistant chief of fisheries for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “We can see looking in their stomachs that they’ll eat everything that’s out there. They’re eating crayfish and bream, and they’ll kill fish just because of the competition factor. From the White River, they have access to much of the state.” Lee Holt, district fisheries biologist for the AGFC in Brinkley, confirmed a breeding population of northern snakeheads April 28 in a drainage ditch in Lee County. Oliver said a farmer found the first one about a week ago on the ground near a drainage ditch. Since then, he said AGFC personnel also found adult snakeheads, including three that measured 20", 17" and 14" long, respectively.


Farmers found more snakeheads near an irrigation pump. AGFC personnel quickly applied rotenone, which suffocates fish, to all the ditches in the area. They killed about 100 snakeheads and collected 55 live specimens for study, but Oliver said floodwaters have probably already moved fish into Big Creek and the White River.


From there, he said, they will be able to spread unhindered into the St. Francis, Arkansas and Mississippi rivers.

“Unfortunately, all these creeks are way out of their normal borders,” Oliver said. “Once they’re out in the streams, there’s no way to do anything about them. The water’s too cool to rotenone them, and there are too many places for us to miss them.” Mike Freeze of Keo, who served on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission from 1999-2006, said northern snakeheads originally came to Arkansas in 2000 by way of Jack Dunn’s Fish Farm in Monroe. Dunn, who died Feb. 23, intended to raise the fish commercially. Freeze said that Andy Goodwin, professor of aquaculture at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, advised Dunn to exterminate them.


“Dr. Goodwin called and said the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service was probably going to list the northern snakehead as injurious in a couple of years,” Freeze said. “He said you really don’t want to be raising them.” On Oct. 4, 2002, the USFWS added all snakehead species to the list of injurious fish under the federal Lacey Act. That action made it illegal to import snakeheads into the United States or to transport them across state lines. Arkansas banned possession of them that same year.


“Jack didn’t break the law because there was no law to break at that time,” Freeze said. “Jack told me he killed his.” At least, Dunn tried. The northern snakehead can live several hours out of water, during which time it can move across dry ground to reach new waters. The northern snakehead is long and narrow. Its color is mottled brown, with snakelike, diamond-shaped markings. Unlike the grinnel, which has a blunt, round head, the snakehead has a narrow, snakelike head. Its anal fin runs about half the length of its body.


Freeze said Dunn removed the snakeheads from his ponds with a seine and dumped them on the levees.


“Some must have flopped down the levee and got down in the drainage ditch,” Freeze said. “The worst case is that they’ll continue to spread, and they’ll be another fish we’re going have to deal with, and there will be ecological impacts that we can’t see.”



USFWS confirms VHS found in Sea Lamprey

The Lacrosse, Wisconsin Fish Health Center (FHC) has found the Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSv) in sea lamprey.


The Health center has isolated the Great Lakes strain of VHSv-IVb from invasive sea lampreys collected from Northern Lake Huron tributaries during a recent operation under the National Wild Fish Health Survey.  The Center reports 12 samples of kidney tissues were collected from the sea lampreys and processed according to Fish and Wildlife Service and American Fisheries Society Fish Health Section (AFS-FHS) Standard Procedures for Aquatic Animal Health Inspections.


Replicate samples were incubated on epithelioma papulosum cyprini (EPC) and Chinook salmon embryo (CHSE-214) cell lines at 15°C. EPC cells are the recommended cell line for the detection of VHSv. Negative control samples were also inoculated onto each cell line. Tissue samples were limited to kidney because lamprey lack spleens and lamprey liver tissue contains high concentration of bile salts, which are toxic to VHSv.

VHSv was confirmed in the samples.


In 1988, the virus was detected in marine fishes in the Pacific Northwest. In 2005, VHSv was first reported in the Great Lakes, but may have been responsible for fish kills since 2003. VHSv has been responsible for numerous fish kills in lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and Michigan. The virus has also been the cause of fish mortality in several inland lakes in the 

Great Lakes basin, and was isolated from muskellunge from Clear Fork Reservoir, Ohio, outside of the Great Lakes basin, by the La Crosse FHC in April, 2008.


Current inspections of sea lampreys in June, 2008, include 60 specimens that were euthanized at the USGS Hammond Bay Biological Station, Lake Huron, Michigan and shipped on ice overnight to the La Crosse FHC for necropsy. The animals were collected during routine Sea Lamprey Management Program trapping operations in the Cheboygan River, Greene Creek and the Ocqueoc River, Michigan.


Because this was an isolation of VHSv-IVb from a new species, the isolated virus of the original tissue samples were sent to the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, for additional testing.  The NVSL also identified the virus isolated was VHSv-IVb; however, NVSL was not able to replicate the results from the original tissue samples. The LaCrosse FHC will attempt to replicate its initial isolation through continued testing of sea lampreys from the Great Lakes.


APHIS stated they will not be adding sea lamprey to the list of VHSv-susceptible species at this time because they could not isolate VHSv from the original tissue samples. Accordingly, the La Crosse FHC finding does not alter the current Federal regulatory status of sea lamprey relative to VHSv-IVb. The USFWS stated the LaCrosse FHC finding does not alter the current Federal regulatory status of sea lamprey relative to VHSv-IVb.

TWIC waiting to be picked up

TWIC becomes effective on the date it is printed, not on the date it is activated.

At enrollment centers nationwide there are a significant number of TWIC cards waiting to be picked up and activated. If you have been notified that your card is ready, the Dept of Homeland Security strongly encourages you to come in and activate your credentials as soon as possible.  Remember,

the process is easy.  Appointments for activation can be made

via the Web site, www.tsa.gov/twic, or the help desk, 1-866-DHS-TWIC; people may also just walk in.


As a reminder, a TWIC becomes effective on the date it is printed, not on the date it is activated.  Therefore, waiting to complete the activation process will not extend the card's expiration date; the clock has already started.

Phone sex hotline featured on Duck Stamp

Feds: 'It will just be a lot more interesting for people now'

USFWS will continue selling a stamp that directs consumers to a phone sex hotline because they say it would be too costly to reprint them.  One report also states the Service has only had one call about the mistake.


Approximately 3.5 million Duck Stamps sold by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were supposed to include a phone number to purchase the current Migratory Bird Conservation

and Hunting edition. Instead of the correct phone number – 1-800-STAMP24 – the printers substituted the word "STAMP" with "TRAMP."


The number directs dialers to a service called "Intimate Connections," where callers are warned that they are required to be older than 18 to continue.  For more info: http://www.fws.gov/  and http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/sports/303599


Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for Sept. 5, 2008

Weather Conditions

Very hot and humid conditions existed in the Great Lakes basin early this week with temperatures in some locations reaching into the low 90s.  The remnants of Hurricane Gustav pushed northward throughout the week and brought a good soaking rain to the western Great Lakes basin beginning Thursday.  The upcoming weekend will see a mix of sun and clouds and cooler temperatures.  Unsettled weather will return to the region for the start of the work week.

Lake Level Conditions

Currently, all of the Great Lakes are at or above their levels of a year ago.  Lakes Superior, Michigan-Huron, and St. Clair are 16, 7 and 4 inches, respectively, higher than they were at this time last year.  Lake Erie is at its level of a year ago, while Lake Ontario is 12 inches higher.  All of the Great Lakes are predicted to fall during the next month.  Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are forecasted to drop 1 to 2 inches, while Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario are forecasted to fall 5 to 8 inches over the next month.  Lakes Superior, Michigan-Huron, St. Clair, and Ontario are predicted to remain above their levels of a year ago over the next several months, while Lake Erie is projected to hover around last year's level. 

Current Outflows/Channel Conditions

In August, outflow through the St. Mary's River was slightly above average, while outflows through the St. Clair, Detroit, and Niagara Rivers were below average.  The outflow from the St. Lawrence River was above average.


Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.





St. Clair



Level for Sept 5






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Diff last month






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DNR acts to implement CWD Surveillance/Response Plan

Response to last week’s finding of Chronic Wasting Disease

(CWD) has been confirmed in a three-year old privately-owned white-tailed deer in Kent County, the Michigan DNR is acting immediately to implement provisions of the state’s Surveillance and Response Plan for CWD.


Among the provisions is an immediate ban on all baiting and feeding of deer and elk in the Lower Peninsula. DNR conservation officers will step up surveillance and enforcement efforts on baiting. Baiting and feeding unnaturally congregate deer into close contact, thus increasing the transmission of contagious diseases such as CWD and bovine tuberculosis.  Bait and feed sites increase the likelihood that those areas will become contaminated with the feces of infected animals, making them a source of CWD infection for years to come.


Additionally, the provisions include a mandatory deer check for hunters who take a deer within Tyrone, Solon, Nelson, Sparta, Algoma, Courtland, Alpine, Plainfield, and Cannon townships, which contain the surveillance area or “hot zone.” All hunters who take a deer during any deer hunting season this fall within the “hot zone” will be required to visit a DNR deer check station so that their deer can be tested for CWD.


The DNR currently is seeking locations for additional deer check stations in the area to make it more convenient for hunters.  To prevent unintentional spread of CWD, the only 

parts of deer harvested in the surveillance zone that will be

allowed to be transported out will be boned meat, capes, and antlers cleaned of all soft tissues.


In addition, all transport of live wild deer, elk and moose will be prohibited statewide, including transport for rehabilitation purposes. Currently, there is no live animal test for CWD, and infected animals often show no signs of illness for years in spite of being infectious for other animals.  Movement for rehabilitation purposes may speed geographic spread of the disease. 


The DNR will act immediately to test an additional 300 deer within the “hot zone” in Kent County. The DNR will be cooperating with local officials to collect fresh road-killed deer, and will be urging deer hunters participating in the early antlerless season on private land in September to comply with the mandatory deer check.


Landowners in Kent County “hot zone” who would like to obtain disease control permits to cull deer from their property and assist with the collection of deer for testing should contact the DNR’s Wildlife Disease Lab at 517-336-5030. Permits will be available immediately upon request. Landowners who do not want to cull deer, but want to participate in the collection of deer for testing, can obtain assistance from the DNR in culling deer.


More info about CWD: www.michigan.gov/chronicwastingdisease.


Boating Safety Education Grant program workshop Sept 18

COLUMBUS, OH - A Boating Safety Education Grant Program workshop, which provides guidance and training in the grant application  process, will be held on Thursday, September 18 by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Watercraft at its Alum Creek Area Office and Learning Center, 3305 North Old State Road in Delaware. The free workshop details the boating education grant application guidelines and funding priorities.


More than $365,000 in grant funding is provided annually through the Waterways Safety Fund to community-based organizations to provide boating safety education programs for Ohioans. Individual grants ranging from $1,000 to $30,000 per program are competitively awarded on a cost share basis with

the applicant matching at least 25 percent of the total boating

education program cost.


In January, a total of $364,417 was awarded to 33 grant recipients to provide boating safety education programs statewide in 2008.


Participants must pre-register to attend the free grant workshop by calling the Division of Watercraft at (614) 265-6674. Boating Safety Education Grant applications for 2009 must be submitted to the Division of Watercraft and postmarked on or before October 24, 2008. Information about the Boating Safety Education Grant Program, which includes a grant application, can be found online at www.ohiodnr.com/watercraft/grant/.


Archery deer season opens Sept. 13

MADISON -- Bow hunters will get the first opportunity to harvest Wisconsin’s premier big game animal this year when the archery season for deer starts on Sept. 13. With a projection of between 1.5 and 1.7 million deer in the state, odds are good that the bow hunters will harvest game.


“In all areas of the state with the exception of a number of units in the north deer are plentiful, said Jason Fleener, a Department of Natural Resource wildlife biologist. Last year’s winter was “severe” in some units in the north central part of the state. Historically this has resulted in a reduction of about 20 percent in fawn-doe ratios.” 


As a result, those units are being dropped from the Herd Control Unit status and the antlerless quotas for the units were reduced.  With most all other units in the state over deer population goals, bow hunters should have a better chance to see some deer.

Fleener advises bow hunters to plan their hunt according to the particular unit being hunted. In some units hunters can harvest an antlerless deer which will qualify them for an Earn-A-Buck (EAB) deer. Earn-A-Bucks units are found primarily in the southwest and southeast parts of the state.


All hunters in Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Florence, Forest, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida, Polk, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor,  Vilas and Washburn counties are asked to participate in the chronic wasting disease surveillance this year. The northern region needs to collect samples from 500 deer from each county as part of its disease surveillance program.


“We need hunter cooperation to help insure a healthy deer herd in the north,” said Northern Region Wildlife Expert, Mike Zeckmeister, ‘and that is what these periodic disease checks do.”


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the GLSFC, its officers or staff. 

Reproduction of any material by paid-up members of the GLSFC is encouraged but appropriate credit must be given. 

Reproduction by others without written permission is prohibited.

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