Biologists with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have identified bacteria (motile Aeromonas) leading to the deaths of catfish in the Snake River and Brownlee Reservoir. The bacteria are specific to fish. They are common bacteria that appeared to be amplified in the catfish by warm water, low levels of dissolved oxygen and high levels of nutrient in the Snake River.
The bacteria can not survive in warm-blooded animals including humans. Fish and Game regional fishery manager Jeff Dillon says live catfish in the Snake River and Brownlee Reservoir are safe to eat. "If you catch a healthy looking fish you don't have anything to worry about."
However, Dillon cautions people against eating or handling any dead fish they encounter at the reservoir. "People should use common sense," He said "Anytime you have sick or dead fish there could be other undesirable bacteria that show up once the fish are dead. I would not take any of those dead fish home and eat them."
While thousands of catfish have died in the area, managers say they only represent a small portion of the population in the Snake River. Unless water quality continues to get worse this isolated incident should have little impact on the long term quality of the fishery.