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Gill lice discovered in PA brook trout population

Nov 06, 2016
Some of you may already be aware of the problems in Wisconsin with gill lice infecting that state's native brook trout population. Well, unfortunately, the problem has arrived in Pennsylvania.

Some of you may already be aware of the problems in Wisconsin with gill lice infecting that state's native brook trout population. Well, unfortunately, the problem has arrived in Pennsylvania. At the PATU Trout Management Committee (TMC) meeting on October 23, PFBC Division Chief of Fish Management Jason Detar presented the findings of the PFBC in several Centre County freestone streams. Both wild and stocked brookies were found to be infested with gill lice during surveys. Further investigation by the PFBC showed that the nursery where the hatchery brookies were raised was the source of the infected fish. Subsequently, all the brookies in that co-op nursery were destroyed.

These parasites live on the edges of the gills and suck blood from their hosts. They weaken the fish and, if serious enough, cause the trout to become listless and lack sufficient oxygen. The gill lice found are specific to the Salvelinus (char family) genus to which brook trout belong.

PATU is planning to work with the PFBC to identify the extent of this problem. Details will be worked out with the PFBC before the next trout season. In the meantime, if you catch a brookie, check the gills. These parasites look like tiny maggots and attach themselves to the fringes of the gills where they dine on the brookies’ blood (see photo below). If you want to know more about gill lice, click on http://www.tu.org/blog-posts/parasites-in-brook-trout-on-the-rise


                                                       Photo courtesy of Dave Nihart, PFBC

The TMC is going to have additional meetings with the PFBC in order to map out a plan to study the situation to determine how far reaching it is. PATU will likely be asking chapters and their members to help. In the meantime, if you catch any brookies, take a quick look at the gills. If you see gill lice, please record the information below and send it to Dave Nihart as soon as possible. If you happen to have a camera, take a photo of the infected gills and pass it on to the PFBC.

Required Information:

*Stream name.
*Where the fish was caught (e.g. Strobes Road Bridge near Milltown).
*If possible, include a latitude and longitude of catch location.
*Date fish was caught.
*Photo of fish that shows possible gill lice.

Please send information via email or standard mail directly to:
David Nihart | Fisheries Biologist
Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission
Division of Fisheries Management | Coldwater Unit
450 Robinson Lane | Bellefonte, PA 16823
Phone:  814-359-5220 | Fax: 814-359-5153
www.fishandboat.com | davnihart@pa.gov