More than 70,000 white bass turned belly up in Sardis Lake recently, and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks said the cause is believed to be a naturally occurring bacteria.

The total number of white bass - which composed more than 97 percent of the fish kill - was estimated at 73,510, the MDWFP reported on May 24.

The agency has alerted the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality of the kill.

Live fish were taken to the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Larry Hanson identified the tentative cause of the kill as columnaris disease caused by naturally occurring bacteria. Fish also were infected with aeromonas, another common bacterium.

Stress from spawning, plus low water concentrating fish, likely contributed to the kill. A similar kill occurred in 2008.

"White bass are a 'live fast, die young' fish," MDWFP fisheries biologist Keith Meals said.

They rarely exceed 4 years of age, and are subject to many infections; that is why there is no size or bag limit on white bass.
 
White bass first appeared in Sardis in 1998 as an illegal introduction by anglers. Less than 1 percent of Sardis' anglers fish for them, the MDWFP said.

White bass losses should be quickly replaced by the species' high reproduction and growth rates, but MDWFP biologists will be monitoring Sardis' fish population for impacts of the kill.