Blind, lethargic fish likely developed secondary infections after cold snaps, biologist says
Some zombies have invaded the marshes of Delacroix recently — but not the walking dead variety.
Apparently, some sickly-appearing redfish have been caught by several anglers, and the likely cause is secondary infections brought about by this winter’s severe freezing temperatures, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Early in February, Vann Dassing reported catching a nearly white redfish that appeared blind in both eyes with sores all over its body. He said he had seen several of what he described as “zombie reds,” and finally hooked one after literally bouncing the lure off its head. Dassing, who has fished the marshes of the Delacroix area for more than 30 years and focuses almost exclusively on sight-fishing redfish, said he’s never seen anything like it.
Then, on Feb. 18, Capt. Sean Thornton with S.C. Thornton Charters reported seeing close to 50 ill-appearing redfish while scouting for an upcoming tournament.
“We pulled into a shallow area and immediately began to see redfish. The first two redfish we landed were normal healthy redfish, but as we pushed farther in we begin to see these zombie fish,” Thornton said. “We were able to catch two of them on lures, and we caught one by scooping it up with a landing net after we trolled right up to it. It was only inches away from the foot of the trolling motor. This fish was completely lethargic and didn’t spook from the boat at all. We ended up seeing around 100 fish total, and nearly half of those were zombies.
“These fish looked horrible. They were blind in both eyes, light colored, and full of sores.”
Jason Adriance, LDWF’s finfish program manager, said the cold weather — and how long the air temperature stayed below freezing — is likely the cause of the sickly fish.
“This is typically what we see after the type of cold weather event we had. It stresses the fish beyond normal conditions, and they’ll end up with secondary infections because of the overcrowding that happens when they’re all seeking warmer water,” Adriance said. “They all tend to end up in one spot and get bunched up.
“So not only to do you have the stress of the colder water, you have overcrowding, as well.”
The infections can present themselves in a variety of different ways in individual fish. He couldn’t comment on how many fish in the area might be affected, or what result, if any, the region’s redfish population might feel from the impact of the infections.
“It’s one of those things we’re continuing to monitor,” he said. “We know it happens after cold events.”
Adriance couldn’t comment on if the fish were still safe to eat. He referred that question to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, who had not responded to a phone message when this story was completed. If we receive any additional information, we’ll share it here on LouisianaSportsman.com.