The recently discovered strain of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus, VHSV-IVb, represents an example of the introduction of an extremely pathogenic rhabdovirus capable of infecting a wide variety of new fish species in a new host-environment. The goal of the present study was to delineate the expression kinetics of key genes in the innate immune response relative to the very early stages of VHSV-IVb infection using the yellow perch (Perca flavescens) as a model. Administration of VHSV-IVb by IP-injection into juvenile yellow perch resulted in 84% cumulative mortality, indicating their high susceptibility to this disease. In fish sampled in the very early stages of infection, a significant up-regulation of Mx gene expression in the liver, as well as IL-1β and SAA activation in the head kidney, spleen, and liver was directly correlated to viral load. The potential down-regulation of Mx in the hematopoietic tissues, head kidney and spleen, may represent a strategy utilized by the virus to increase replication.