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Largemouth bass virus detected in Lake Pleasant

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Lake Pleasant (File) Lake Pleasant (File)

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials have confirmed the presence of largemouth bass virus in Lake Pleasant north of Phoenix.

Tests on largemouth bass tissue samples collected during a routine survey last month showed presence of the disease in some samples.

While the virus can affect largemouth bass, officials say it doesn't pose a risk to people and pets and the water is safe for drinking and recreation.

"Largemouth bass virus is not known to infect any warm-blooded animals, and any fish that are caught by anglers are safe to eat," said Marc Dahlberg, Game and Fish water quality program manager. "However, we always recommend that people thoroughly cook any fish they intend to eat, and never use fish found dead or dying for food."

Game and Fish hasn't documented any fish kills at Lake Pleasant associated with largemouth bass virus to date.

The only prior fish health survey conducted at Lake Pleasant was in 2002 and largemouth bass virus wasn't detected then.

Authorities say the virus most likely entered the lake's fishery within the past decade.  The virus has been found in 18 states since 1991.

AZGFD emphasizes that the public can help prevent the spread of the virus by not transporting live fish or water from one body of water to another.

"You might be spreading an unwanted disease or even introducing an unwanted organism, such as quagga mussels, that could substantially affect a fishery or lake ecosystem," said Dahlberg. "Don't transport live fish caught from a lake – period. It's the wrong thing to do and it's unlawful." 

The department also stresses the importance of cleaning, draining and drying boats before leaving any lake, to disinfect it and wait at least five days before launching the boat on another water.

AZGFD stated, "In fact, at several lakes, including Lake Pleasant, it's now the law that you do so. This is extremely important, as the bass virus can live for up to seven days in standing water."

AZGFD's tips to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species:

  • Dispose of all unused bait in the trash, never in the water.
  • Never transfer live fish from one body of water to another.
  • Rinse any mud and/or debris from equipment and wading gear.
  • Drain any water from boats, bilge, bait buckets, and live wells before leaving the launch area. A mild mixture of bleach and water can be used to disinfect your equipment. Allow everything to air dry before moving to another body of water.
  • If you see any dead or dying fish, please report your observation to Arizona Game and Fish at (623) 236-7257.
  • Educate others to follow these steps.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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