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DWR Stops Bringing Tiger Muskies into Utah


December 14, 2006

Agency looking for new sources after disease found in eight states

Tiger Musky
Tiger Musky

A disease that's infected fish in eight states has led the Division of Wildlife Resources to stop importing tiger musky fry (fish that are less than two inches long) from Minnesota.

A tiger muskie is a cross between a muskellunge and a northern pike. Because tiger muskies are hybrids, they don't reproduce. Not purchasing and raising imported fry from an infected state means Utah's tiger muskie populations won't be increasing any time soon.

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) is the reason DWR officials have voluntarily decided not to bring tiger muskie fry into the state. VHS does not affect humans, but it does affect fish. And the DWR does not want to bring the disease into Utah.

"The risk of bringing VHS in from Minnesota waters, and infecting fish in Utah, is just too high," says Walt Donaldson, Aquatic Section chief for the DWR. "I know some of our anglers, especially those who fish at Pineview Reservoir, will be disappointed with this decision. But we have no choice. We can't risk bringing VHS into Utah and potentially infecting our native fish populations."

VHS Background

VHS is highly contagious and infects both cold and warm water fish. Fish that are infected with the virus often bleed internally, and they usually die.

Some fish that have VHS don't show any external signs that they're infected. Others do show signs. Those signs include bulging eyes, bloated abdomens, inactive or overactive behavior and bleeding in the eyes, skin, gills and at the base of the fins. These fish may also have lesions that look like the lesions caused by other fish diseases.

The VHS disease has been found in eight states near the Great Lakes. The federal government has placed limitations regarding shipping fish from these states to other parts of the country. It's not known if and when these limitations will be lifted.

More information about VHS is available at www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/aqua.

Tiger Muskies in Utah

Other Western states that purchase tiger muskie fry from the eight states that have the disease are in the same dilemma as Utah. Donaldson says the DWR has contacted several of these states to see whether they would be interested in joining Utah in starting a tiger muskie egg and fry program in the West.

"All of the Western states that have tiger muskies are affected by this, and all of us are trying to find new sources of disease-free tiger muskie," Donaldson says. "All of these Western states, including Utah, want to continue to provide tiger muskies for their anglers. We're going to work together to see it we can make that happen."

Tiger muskies are the largest sportfish in Utah. The current catch-and-keep record in Utah was taken earlier this year at Pineview Reservoir in northern Utah. The tiger muskie was more than four feet long (49 inches) and weighed more than 33 pounds. A 53ΒΌ-inch tiger muskie was also caught and released at Pineview in 1998.

Tiger muskies are found in several reservoirs in northern, northeastern and southern Utah. When stocked with tiger muskie, these waters provide quality fishing that's very diverse.