What’s With All the Dead Fish at Wabascon Lake?
It’s a puzzling and alarming sight. Hundreds, if not thousands of dead fish have floated dead to the surface of Wabascon Lake, north of Battle Creek.
Just Shotts has lived on the lake for 14 years. Shotts posted a video Sunday, July 11th on the Wabascon Lake Facebook page that shows the eerie sight of large, dead fish all around the lake.
“A neighbor told me that the DNR came out and counted at least 1,000 dead fish, mainly white suckers,” said Shotts. He said he’s also seen dead carp, and a few bluegills and sunfish.
Shotts said that a lot of the algae on the lake has taken on an unusual blue tint and that the lake flowers and algae have blossomed like crazy, far more than normal.
“There are so many dead fish that it has caused a film of oil covering much of the lake. The smell on the south end is overpowering.”
He said he called the DNR and was told that they may or may not be interested. “They asked me to go out and get them a closer picture and determine if they were carp or suckers. If the mass die-off were suckers, they don’t care, but if it's carp they do care because there’s some kind of virus they are trying to stop.”
Local video reporter Kevin Live posted a video taken by Shotts as he went out for a second look.
There’s a lot of speculation about the possible cause. It could be from excess algae caused by fertilizer runoff depleting the water of oxygen. Some have wondered if chemicals have been dumped into the creek that feeds the lake. Perhaps a spike in water temperature? Shotts would like state officials to look into it to make sure it’s not something more serious. “Since so many of the dead fish are bottom feeders, I’d like to know if there’s something down there.”
He said Wabascon Lake is really more of a river, as Wabascon Creek flows through it from the north, all the way down to the Custer Bridge at the Kalamazoo River. He said it also connects to several area lakes.
The DNR notes on its website that these types of fish kills can occur in the hot summer months.
"High temperature and low dissolved oxygen combine to stress the fish. Most prone to summer kills are pike, perch, suckers, bass, and bluegill living in shallow, productive lakes or bays with excessive amounts of algae or rooted aquatic vegetation. The plants consume large amounts of oxygen at night, causing a temporary shortage of the vital gas just before dawn. A cloudy, calm day extends the critical period by reducing re-oxygenation from photosynthesis and wave action. Apparently, fish in the oxygen-depleted areas do not sense the danger and swim to safety in time. A very unique type of fish kill is caused by a lightning strike on water. Death occurs immediately. Large fish, which draw more electricity than small fish, may be killed selectively."
Here’s another video of the lake from Just Shotts.