Bass Virus in Retreat

Largemouth disease not as lethal in 2001 as in years past.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Good news for bass fishermen: Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) seems to have lost some of its punch. Last year saw fewer fishkills attributable to LMBV than the year prior did, and those that did occur were less severe than they have been in the past.

The bad news from the annual B.A.S.S. Largemouth Bass Virus workshop, held in Little Rock, Ark., this past winter, is that LMBV is not contained to Southern waters. In 2001, the virus was discovered in two lakes in Michigan, three in Indiana and two on the borders of those states. In addition, Illinois biologists confirmed the virus in fish from four of their lakes.

Biologists anticipate we'll learn more about the disease quickly as funding for research takes off-hopefully in time to contain the virus and keep it from spreading to other waters. In the next few years more than $400,000 from Wallop-Breaux-a federal sport fish restoration program-will fuel research at places such as Auburn, Louisiana State, Mississippi State and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's Warm Springs Fish Health Center in Georgia.

Much remains unknown about the virus. One mystery scientists hope to shed light on is the process by which LMBV turns from an infection into a deadly disease. Many largemouth bass that test positive for the virus are otherwise healthy.