Long hard winter kills numerous fish

The effects of a natural process known as winterkill can be seen along the shorelines of ponds throughout the county, where hundreds of dead fish rot and are being fed on by eagles and other creatures scavenging for food after the long cold winter.

04-03-2014_ponds-1Lovell Game Warden James Hobbs said the numerous dead fish that can be seen along the shoreline of Pond No. 5, Lovell Lakes and other ponds are the natural result of a particularly cold winter. As the ice melts, the dead fish float to the surface as part of the natural process.

Fisheries biologist Craig Amadio concurred that the phenomenon is not unusual following a particularly long, cold winter like the one experienced this year. He said it’s nothing to be overly alarmed about and it is perfectly normal during a winter of sustained cold with many days of sub-zero weather.

Amadio said his office received many calls about the dead fish.

“We encourage people to give us a call to report this sort of thing,” he said. “Sometimes we already know about it, sometimes we don’t. In any event, we appreciate the calls.”

He said Brad Welch from the Tillett Springs Rearing Station investigated the reports last week and found approximately 200 dead bass, sunfish and trout on Pond No. 5.

“They all appeared to have died several days ago or possibly even a week or more ago,” said Amadio. “All of the trout he observed were fin clipped, which leads me to believe they were from the three and four year old brood culls we stocked in January. He didn’t see any unmarked trout so I’m fairly certain the two-year-old culls we put in last week did fine.

“We believe it was a partial winterkill but not a complete kill. It’s been a tough winter on our lowland ponds and reservoirs with the prolonged ice cover and heavy snow preventing light penetration. A combination that often leads to low oxygen levels. South Worland Pond and Renner have also partially winter killed this year.  It’s not all that unusual following a winter like this.”

He assured birdwatchers that the eagles are in no danger feeding on the dead fish. In fact, it’s a boon to their existence to happen upon the high quality food source.

Eagles are taking advantage of an easy meal by feasting on dead fish along the edge of Lovell Lakes. The dead fish are the result of winterkill caused by a particularly cold stretch of cold weather.
Patti Carpenter photos

“Mother Nature is cruel,” he explained. “As one group of animals perishes, another benefits. This is why we are seeing so many eagles on the ponds right now. The dead fish are an easy food source for them that is high in protein.”

Amadio said a fisheries biologist will be taking an inventory of the ponds this week to assess the extent of the winterkill. He said fishermen should not be concerned, as the ponds will be restocked as deemed necessary.

by Patti Carpenter