Friday, December 8, 2017

Hundreds of Dying Stripers

Last weekend I went up to the Providence River to explore its winter fishery.  I was up on some high walls in the city above the river when I looked down into the shallow and clear water.  What I saw was shocking.
I saw so many sick and dying fish. Below me in some spots were various schools of small stripers.  In some places they numbered up to fifty or sixty fish.  In other places, there were a few here and there.  In about a half mile stretch I must have spotted hundreds of fish.  Sad to report, they were ALL sick.  They looked like white ghost fish in the water as they had a glowing white fungus all over their bodies. Some were completely covered in the white fungus; others were partially covered.  Some were swimming around in circles as if blinded by the disease. When I looked more closely, I spotted several dead ones on the bottom, white lifeless corpses just laying there in the sand.
I've seen this in Narragansett Bay before, but never this bad. I also caught several that had the white fungus along the RI south shore oceanfront this fall. I'm guessing this is a disease called mycobacteriosis, a skin disease that infects striped bass along various parts of the coastline.  From what I have read, it can be brought about by stress, poor nutrition and also very warm and polluted water (seems to fit in Providence). It spreads among schools of fish in certain areas. They say this disease can also affect humans who come into contact with diseased fish.  I wear gloves when fishing up here and try not to touch any fish that's even slightly diseased.
This is certainly bad news for the Providence River holdover fishery.