Fishing Season - Bagging the "Big One"

Fishing season! That time of the year when you put on your rubber boots, grab your fishing pole and head out to the nearest stream, river, lake or pond in the hopes of “Bagging the Big One.” Anglers across the state are hoping to get the catch of the day.

Bag the Big One

Bag the Big One

This year, you may not want to catch the “Big One”…

Sure, you want to catch the biggest fish, but there is another “Big One” you do not want to bring home… the Avian Influenza virus. You may be asking yourself, “What do fishing and Avian Influenza have in common?”

The answer, “More than you ever suspected.”

Numerous wild waterfowl across the United States, including birds in Pennsylvania, have tested positive for Low Path Avian Influenza (LPAI) and in a few cases like Tennessee, High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI). It is also important to note that LPAI can quickly shift or drift to HPAI under spring weather conditions. The two recent outbreaks in Lincoln County, Tennessee likely originated in waterfowl migrating through the Mid-Atlantic Flyway.

Anglers need to be vigilant about their role in containing the virus. The Avian Influenza virus can remain contagious in cold water for up to three weeks. High levels of the virus thrive in organic matter such as droppings from migrating ducks and geese. The spread of the disease from wild waterfowl to domesticated poultry flocks is believed to occur most often when fecal matter and mud collect in the soles of boots and shoes worn by anglers.

These contaminated boots act as a vector, carrying the virus from one area to another. People who visit waterways for fishing or recreation can help prevent transmission of the Avian Influenza virus by changing their boots or shoes before leaving these areas and washing their vehicles as quickly as possible.

Here are some ideas you can implement to help prevent accidently transmitting the disease to your flock or someone else’s flock.

  • Best prevention measures: Have two pairs of boots -- One for fishing or walking near waterways or in fields where wild waterfowl have inhabited and one pair of boots or shoes for doing barn chores and other farming activities.
  • Run your truck or vehicle through a car wash before returning to the farm. Scrubbing the tire tread, mud flaps, fender wells and pockets where mud collects is essential.
  • Moderate prevention measures: Scrub the boots or shoes with a stiff brush removing all debris. Spray clean boots with sanitizer and wait as long as you can before wearing them around the farm.
  • Pay careful attention to run-off when you wash your vehicle and avoid walking near your driveway when you are on your way to feed your birds.

***NOTE*** ONLY using spray sanitizer does NOT kill the virus. Sanitizer rarely penetrates into the caked mud enough to destroy the virus.

If you own birds, you need to ask everyone who visits your farm a few very important questions:

  1. Have you been fishing or golfing in the last 24 hours?
  2. Have you visited any areas where waterfowl are known to stop?
  3. Could you please keep your vehicle at the end of the lane?

You need to assume that any visitors could potentially be carrying the disease. Wild waterfowl have been known to inhabit parks, golf courses and backyards. The ability of the Avian Influenza virus to live over a period of weeks makes it very difficult to contain.

The take home message here is “Bag the Big One!”… The big fish and the potential Avian Influenza virus. Put your fishing boots in a plastic bag after scrubbing them and ask visitors to your farm to wear plastic bags or boots as soon as they leave their vehicle. For more information on how you can prevent Avian Influenza, Google “Penn State Poultry”. If you believe your birds are sick contact the State Veterinarians at 717-772-2852. These professionals can help you identify what you are dealing with.

Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility.
Be WISER – Be Biosecure = Watch – Isolate – Sanitize – Educate - Report.

Photo credits: Deb Dietrich

Contact Information

Capri Stiles-Mikesell
  • 4-H Educator
Phone: 814-940-5989