WALKER – A parasite is the cause of a fish kill of catfish at the pond at Sidney Hutchinson Park, Walker city officials said.

The dead catfish were removed from the pond and the pond was treated, said Jamie Etheridge, city chief of operations.

There was no threat to people visiting the park, he said.

“We cleaned the pond of dead fish on Thursday, then went back,” during the weekend to clean it again, Etheridge said.

“It’s nothing the public needs to worry about,” he said.

Facility manager Brian Farlow went to the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries on Monday to get chemicals to treat the pond, Mayor Jimmy Watson said. The Wildlife Department stocked the pond with catfish and rainbow trout and held a free fishing event as part of its Get Out and Fish! Program on Nov. 3.

The cause of the fish kill was ick, a parasite that targets smooth-skinned fish, Etheridge said. Trout in the pond were not affected.

Ick, or white spot disease, is the name given to the external protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, according to Dr. Scott Fitzgerald, of the Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab at Purdue University.

It is probably the most serious disease of channel catfish and is seen in other warm-water and cool-water species of farmed fish, according to the lab’s Internet page.

The parasite ranges in size from 0.5 to 1.5 mm in diameter and is found just under the skin of the fish and is visible as a white spot. Symptoms include gray-white spots that give the fish’s skin and fins the appearance of being sprinkled with salt.

These granular white spots have a “bumpy” feel to the touch. Infection of the gills occurs before the skin and fins.

In the early stages, the fish may swim horizontally and rapidly rub against solid objects in an attempt to free themselves of the parasites. Fish also may appear sluggish and lie on the bottom of the pond or tank.

In catfish ponds, fish frequently rest near the edge of the water. In advanced cases, bloody tins are common, with a thick mucous layer covering the body.

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