In addition to Largemouth Bass Virus, this fish also has multiple fungal, parasitic and bacterial infections. / Maryland DNR image
POCOMOKE — Largemouth Bass Virus has been found in several waterways across the state, but prior to this year, the virus had never been documented in the Pocomoke River. In a recently released report, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced that of 10 bass sampled from the Pocomoke River, six tested positive for the virus.
“We hadn’t tested for it yet in the Pocomoke River, so over the past year we took some samples, and six of the 10 individual fish we sampled had Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV),” said Joseph Love, the tidal bass manager for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources. “It’s not the first time we have found it in Maryland. But we are trying to report it as we sample rivers and determine its occurrence, its frequency and how many individuals in our sample have it.”
Love said his department has found LMBV in the Potomac River, as well as the Patuxent, the Susquehanna, the Northeast and the Choptank rivers. It has also observed fish with the disease in other reservoirs around the state.
“It is not an uncommon virus, and it can be transmitted by many species of fish,” Love said. “It’s a waterborne virus, so it can just exist in the water. It’s a pretty tough organism.”
Anglers might suspect a fish has LMBV because it causes the bass to swim “lazily” and “haphazardly” near the surface of the water.
“I was at a fishing tournament in the Upper Bay and I saw a fish just swimming kind of lethargically at the surface, and that gave me pause, so I pulled it out of the water because that’s kind of symptomatic of LMBV,” Love said. “Once the fish is cut open, the angler may see the gas bladder or the swim bladder has an orange kind of fat in there. That is what is causing the fish to swim lazily at the surface — because they can’t regulate their body position in the water column.”
Love said fish with LMBV pose no threat to humans, and that if anglers choose to they can eat the fish. Love did request that if anglers come across fish they think might have LMBV, they contact the DNR at 800-285-8195, so the area can be tested.
“If the angler did want to eat the fish, they’re more than welcome to,” Love said. “But I would still like a phone call, just so that we know the fish was exhibiting behavioral issues, because there could be some other things going on out there too.”