Pickerel Fish Lice

Fish Lice and Stuff.

Pickerel Fish LiceI hate yard work with a passion. That’s not entirely true, I don’t mind yard work when I feel like I am accomplishing something, but that’s not the case with my yard. It’s a disaster. I can't get anything to grow like it should. I was out on my hands and knees working away one night this past weekend when my German shepherd, Rayna, circled upwind of me and dropped a potent reminder as to why my lawn is in terrible shape. If I hadn’t already been on my knees when she performed the dirty deed I surely would have ended up there. She’s a good girl, just not very lady like sometimes. It’s disgusting enough to make a man want to give up and go fishing. So that’s what I did!

Fishing, Vermont

One Whopper of a Fish

Turkey hunting was not in my weekend plans, so Sam and I packed up the car and headed out for some trout fishing Saturday morning. We hit up a local lake that was stocked about three weeks ago. The fish were biting like crazy then, but not so much on Saturday morning. However, he did get to see some other cool things, like baby geese and a big bullfrog that hung out at our feet the entire time we were there. He also managed to catch one whopper of a fish.

We gave up after an hour and headed home, hoping that if we got our Saturday chores done it would leave some time for another fishing expedition in the afternoon. We didn’t exactly get our chores done but did magically find time for another fishing trip. This time, we headed east to New Hampshire to try our hand fishing NoTellum Lake. The fish always bite there, especially the Pickerel. It’s perfect for Sam because they are dumb fish that will bite anything shiny and they put up a good fight. That’s also why they are perfect for me.

SIDE NOTE: NH LICENSE FEE’S HAVE INCREASED! Holy smokes, I remember reading about the increase last year but didn’t realize it had gone up so much until I purchased my license on Saturday. Ouch. Read last year’s story about it here.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. We are trolling along and I get a strike on the shiny thing I was fishing with. I reel the beast to the side of the boat and decide to bring it onboard to show it off only to discover that it is crawling with little critters – probably fifteen to twenty of them. A few minutes later I caught a second fish that was also covered with them.

New Hampshire Chain Pickerel

Fish Lice, New Hampshire Pickerel

I posted the pictures to Facebook (click here to Like The 4 Pointer on Facebook!) with hopes that someone would say something intelligent and help with the identification of these critters. Fortunately, someone said they were fish lice (thanks, Steve). Not knowing if he was serious or not (that’s the fun with my page), I decided to look them up to see if he was right.

After endless hours of research, it does appear that these little guys are indeed lice. They are an ectoparasite (a parasite that lives on the outside of the host) and feeds off the blood of their host. In small numbers they don’t cause much harm. In larger numbers they can irritate the fish, causing it to rub up against rocks and other hard surfaces to try and knock the lice off. In some cases, it can lead to death by making the fish anemic. Neato!

Read more about them here: Argulus foliaceus

What is concerning to me is that I have never seen lice on fish in this body of water in all my years of fishing here. So, are they new in this lake? Is this the start of the biggest outbreak of Argulus foliaceus in the history of the world? Probably not. They’ve likely always been here and I simply haven’t noticed them before. I don’t make a habit of bringing pickerel into the boat so it’s possible. Maybe they aren’t a big deal at all and I’ve finally discovered something most anglers already knew about.

It’s fishy for sure.

But you know me, I’m not content to sit back and wonder if I’ve identified them correctly or if they are a concern without asking an expert (besides Google). So, I reached out to the fine folks at the New Hampshire Inland Fisheries Division for clarification. I’m still waiting to hear back from them (DON’T THEY KNOW THIS IS IMPORTANT!?), but when I do I’ll be sure to share with you what they say.


 

Tim FaceWoodchuck update: He's still alive. He did, however, foolishly expose the location of his lair when he bolted for the front door the other day. He's being watched closely, and I think he knows it. 

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