Gill lice detected for first time in Virginia trout

A rainbow trout. Wildlife officials have found a species of gill lice for the first time in...
A rainbow trout. Wildlife officials have found a species of gill lice for the first time in Virginia.(Jason Hallacher, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 10:12 AM EDT
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Native brook trout in Virginia appears to be out of harm’s way when it comes to the recent detection of a nasty aquatic parasite called gill lice in Southwest Virginia.

Biologists from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources sent samples of gill lice found on rainbow trout in Blue Springs Creek in Smyth and Wythe Counties to a laboratory to verify which species had been detected.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lamar Fish Health Center confirmed the samples to be Salmincola californiensis, a species that is host-specific to rainbow trout, the DWR announced last month.

Another species of gill lice, Salmincola edwardsii, is host-specific to brook trout but has not been detected in Virginia.

“The two species of gill lice are very specific to the host species, in other words, the one that generally infects rainbow trout would not likely infect brook trout and vice versa,” said Jeffrey Williams, DWR regional aquatics manager.

Both species of gill lice are already present in North Carolina and Pennsylvania waters.

“As we’re dealing with the species that infects rainbow trout, we are still going to be extremely vigilant looking at our brook trout populations to make sure we don’t see any appearance of the gill lice that affects brook trout,” said Williams.

DWR biologists are not sure exactly how the gill lice made their way into Virginia, but they will assess private hatcheries in the Cripple Creek watershed since no gill lice were detected in state hatcheries.


.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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