First of all, I want to welcome Justin Heflin as our new District Biologist in Region 3. Justin comes to us with previous experience out of the Region 4 office in Verona and with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. He will be based out of Marion and will be covering many of Jeff William’s old responsibilities (Jeff, notably, was recently promoted to Region 3 Aquatics Manager). We’re glad to have Justin join the team.
I’d also like to wish the best for Ray Fernald, who recently retired as the head of the Wildlife Information and Environmental Services section. Ray worked for DWR for more than 30 years, and his tireless efforts have truly benefited Virginia’s wildlife. As an example, his work on zebra mussel regulations in the early 00’s placed Virginia in a great position to deal with a recent threat – marimo moss balls, which I’ll go into further detail in another section. If you are interested in contributing to a retirement gift, get in touch with Jeff Trollinger.
Speaking of zebra mussels, I want to highlight the most important issue facing the AWRD – invasive species. Earlier this year, we confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in marimo moss balls at the Richmond PetSmart. Marimo moss balls are commonly sold for aquarium use, and contaminated moss balls, which originated in Ukraine, were shipped from distributors in California and Florida. They were discovered throughout the country at PetSmart, Petco, and Amazon. Stores have since pulled the product off the shelf and we have responded by conducting an information campaign in close collaboration with Outreach.
We’ve been continuing our Alabama bass monitoring, and unfortunately, confirmed Alabama bass from the non-tidal James River, Kerr Reservoir and the New River below Claytor Lake. We have instituted our rapid response protocol to further assess the situation and to better determine what, if any, control options are available. Thankfully, our initial follow up on the James did not yield further probable Alabama bass, and our partners in the fishing organizations (Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society, The Bass Federation, The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame) have been extremely supportive of our efforts.
Speaking of Outreach, I want to share a great piece put forth by Brad Fink, who has taken over many of Steve Reeser’s trout related duties, was featured on WHSV out of Harrisonburg with a great piece on peak trout season. Here’s a link, and be sure to get Brad’s autograph before he gets his own nature show.
Lastly, I want to highlight some great habitat work that was led by Dan Wilson out of Region 2. Dan, Scott Smith, a few volunteers, and a Fish Chief who doesn’t get out of the office nearly enough worked together to place out 15 Fishhiding fish attractors on Leesville Reservoir. These structures are made out of repurposed vinyl material (think siding and molding) and last indefinitely in the aquatic environment. Fisheries staff experimented with different arrangements, calling some the “veranda” and others the “atrium”, depending on exact layout. Many thanks to our purchasing staff on this one, who assisted us in buying these items on very short notice, allowing us to take advantage of a brief window of low water levels associated with other dam operations.
That’s all I have. I was given a very strict one page limit.
Marimo Moss Balls
Fish Habitat Structures