2006 was nature's version of Murphy's Law

From many outdoor enthusiasts' standpoint, 2006 was somewhat of an atypical year. There wasn't an abundance of snow. Spring weather came a month earlier than usual, but then faded quickly. Summer was largely a washout that also produced a record flood. Autumn weather was more like that of a normal Spring, and Winter's arrival got stuck out West and remains a no-show here. But the weather was just part of the events that occurred last year that affected outdoor activities.

For angling enthusiasts, a new virus that was presumably ushered in by improperly flushed ballasts of ocean-going ships before they entered the St. Lawrence Seaway was the latest bad news for the Great Lakes system, which has been bombarded by exotic species introduction since the Seaway opened. Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) is new strain of VHS and in early 2006 was determined to be the cause of a kill of freshwater drum and round goby in Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte (Ontario, Canada) and muskellunge in Michigan waters of Lake St. Clair. The disease causes the hemorrhaging of the fish's tissues, including internal organs.

This same strain of VHS has now been confirmed in a number of non-salmonid species in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, the Niagara River, Lake Erie and Conesus Lake in New York State. The virus has now affected round goby, burbot, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, pumpkinseed, rock bass, bluntnose minnow, emerald shiner and walleye in just about all infected waters in the state. Although infected fish often have ugly body sores, hemorrhaging in and around the eyes, and their internal organs may be visible, DEC says that it is not dangerous or infectious to humans.

To date, the DEC is unsure just how widespread or damaging the VHS will be in the state's waters, but a federal order prohibiting the importation of certain species of live fish from Ontario and Quebec and interstate movement of the same species from eight states bordering the Great Lakes has been enacted. The DEC also is prohibiting the commercial collection of bait fish from waters of the state where VHS has been detected.

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