Hundreds of dead carp reported at Jamestown Dam
JAMESTOWN -- A European or Asian fish virus may be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of carp in the waters behind Jamestown Dam, according to Gene van Eeckhout, fisheries biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Carp are not considered a game fish and are not commonly caught by anglers. Some fish are taken by archers during spring. The disease is not considered a threat to humans.
"We don't believe it is winter kill at the Jamestown Dam," van Eeckhout said. "The reports started in early May of fish behaving strangely. They wouldn't swim away from anglers, who said they could reach out and touch them with a fishing rod tip."
Earlier this spring dead carp were reported at Pipestem Dam. Those fish are believed to have died of oxygen starvation or winter kill, van Eeckhout said.
Van Eeckhout said he believes spring viremia of carp is the culprit at Jamestown Dam. Lab testing of samples from dead fish has not been returned to confirm the diagnosis.
"What we're seeing is a classic chronic disease," he said. "How it got here or into the wild population is unknown."
According to research at Iowa State University and published on the Internet, spring viremia of carp has been noted in European fish farms for about 50 years. The disease was first seen in the United States in 2002 at a fish farm in North Carolina. Since that time, a number of wild outbreaks of the disease have occurred, including a 2011 incident in the Minneapolis area.
The Iowa State research said the disease primarily affects carp, with the common carp most vulnerable. Very young northern pike and perch can also succumb to the virus in the wild.
Domestic koi, often used in ornamental garden ponds, are also vulnerable to the disease.
"What we're seeing is it is only affecting the common carp," van Eeckhout said. "The disease is not transmittable to humans or other animals."
Van Eeckhout speculated the commercial fishermen who net carp and bigmouth buffalo fish each summer from the Jamestown Dam are likely to continue to work the lake. Bigmouth buffalo fish seem to be unaffected by the virus and are more valuable in eastern fish markets.
Van Eeckhout said the Game and Fish Department is not planning to remove any of the dead carp at this time.
People encountering the dead or dying fish can leave them alone or remove them from the shoreline to prevent odor, he said.