- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has increased its testing of the state's largemouth bass population to see whether more of the popular gamefish has a killer virus. A small number of bass have tested positive, but so far the biologists say it is nothing to become alarmed about.
Every southeastern state is checking for the Largemouth Bass Virus, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Fish Health Unit in Lamar, Pa., is doing all the testing. Virginia's neighbors, Tennessee and North Carolina, had bass test positive for the virus, and the Old Dominion wasted little time getting into the fray since some of its freshwater impoundments are shared with the two states.
A spokesman for the VDGIF says, "The virus in Virginia appears to have a very low prevalence in most cases only one fish in 60 was a carrier. Although the presence of this virus may appear troubling, its occurrence does not mean that fish in the state are diseased, nor does it imply that they will ever show signs of illness. No fish kills involving only largemouth bass have been reported in the Commonwealth, which indicates that LMBV is not an epidemic problem."
The virus first gained notoriety in 1995 in South Carolina's huge Santee-Cooper reservoir, where LMBV was isolated in fish that were associated with a then-inexplicable bass die-off. Since then the bass virus has been found in 17 states. It seems to show up during extreme periods of heat and frequently affects only the biggest bass. On the good-news side, no long-term impacts have been documented as a result of fish die-offs caused by LMBV.
The virus is a type believed to have been introduced by the tropical fish industry, Virginia fish and game officials say. It presents no threat to humans or warm-blooded animals. Diseased fish that are near death appear to be unable to swim upright and will often appear on the water's surface.
I saw this phenomenon at Lake Fork, Texas, last year when a group of writers fished for trophy bass in 80-degree water. On occasion we would see a large bass laying on its side on the lake surface but only in small numbers compared to the size of the body of water. Texas biologists spent months at Lake Fork to determine the cause of the bass die-off. One of the reasons surely was that Lake Fork is a major tourist attraction, and who wants bad publicity for a such a big-bass factory?
Meanwhile, if you see unusual numbers of dead or dying bass, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries wants you to phone 804/367-0509 to report it. The VDGIF also asks that you do not release unused bait into the water or transfer fish from one body of water to another to do a little stocking of your own, and it wants you to drain and clean your boat's live wells and bilge pumps between fishing trips.
What a wonderful flyfishing guide "Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia Including West Virginia's Best Flyfishing Waters," by David Hart (523 pages, soft cover, black/white photos and maps; $28.95, Wilderness Adventures Press Inc., 800/925-3339), might qualify for the longest book title honors this year, but Hart deserves an award just for all the tough research he did to complete this wonderful book.
Last year, when I reviewed Harry Murray's Virginia flyfishing book I believed that Murray's effort was the best anyone could hope to do. How wrong can a fellow be? Hart, a Northern Virginian who intimately studies his subjects before he takes to the computer keyboard, began by sectioning his state into five zones to simplify finding certain waters.
"This is a meat-and-potatoes book," Hart says. "You won't find lavish ingredients like gushing, flowery prose." With that, he sets the stage. He begins with Region 1, the tidal rivers and reservoirs of southeastern Virginia, where a flyrodder can tie into a bass, striper, bowfin, shad, sea trout or sunfish. Hart provides map after illuminating map to show the way from the Mattaponi and Pamunkey to the Chickahominy and James rivers, to name a few. You'll learn the names of big and small reservoirs, the regulations, the phone numbers of the people who manage them, how to fish there and the motels and tackle shops in the neighborhood.
You get the idea. This isn't just about trout. This is about flyrodding for anything that swims.
In the book's Region 2, Hart shows where, how and when to go after walleyes, bass, trout, fallfish you name it in central Virginia and the southwest Blue Ridge Highlands. Nothing is left to chance. Float trips are measured; fly selections given; accommodations listed; and maps provided, including the upper James, Tye, Appomattox, Staunton, Dan and Rockfish rivers, as well as stocked trout waters. The parade continues with other regional listings, the best mountain trout waters from the extreme southwestern parts on the Tennessee and North Carolina borders up to West Virginia, where that state's top trout and other fishing opportunities are also given. Heck, Hart even lists auto repair shops, and the tourism offices who want you to come and visit. A superb effort.


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