DNR confirms virus to blame for fish kill in Lake St. Clair

Posted at 10:52 AM, May 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-01 13:01:04-04

The DNR has confirmed that a virus is responsible for the fish kill in Lake St. Clair.

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A large number of gizzard shad have been found with bloody skin patches. This typically happens when fish’s blood vessels leak, leaving them more susceptible to the elements. It was an indicator that fish in Lake St. Clair were being affected by the highly contagious viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSv).

“A total of 165 fish have been tested thus far using pooled samples of five fish, and of the 33 pooled samples, 31 of them have been positive for VHSv,” said Gary Whelan, research program manager for the DNR’s Fisheries Division. “Ten gizzard shad were tested individually and all were positive for the virus. These results confirm what we initially suspected, given the external signs on the fish, species involved, and timing of the fish kill, all strongly implicating VHSv as the cause of this fish kill.”

The virus isn’t dangerous for humans. In fact, the virus dies off at temperatures starting around 65 to 70 degrees. The problem is that the fish population may die off rapidly before water reaches that temperature.

For businesses that rely on the fishing industry, the whole situation is frustrating.

As for the Michigan DNR, they’re asking the public to contact them if they see large numbers of dead fish — specifically if more than 25 fish are found dead in a single location. A fish kill email address is up and running for those who witness such issues at