Fish Kills In Area Rivers - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Fish Kills In Area Rivers


Several fish kills have been reported up and down the Mississippi River in our area recently. The Department of Natural Resources and us at KWQC have gotten calls from concerned citizens about this. To most people seeing a bunch of dead fish washed up, like at several areas around Credit Island, might be a little bit alarming. They are gizzard shad fish and you can find them lining the river banks like this in many spots right now. What kills them in high numbers like this is a natural occurrence and all has to do with the temperature.

The silvery-colored Gizzard Shad fish, while abundant, also have a tendency to die-off in large numbers. "They collect in large quantities and ice breaks up and starts flowing. Everyone sees hundreds, thousands, probably millions of fish," said Bernie Schonhoff, Fisheries Biologist with the Iowa DNR.

Schonhoff is with the Fairport Fisheries Management Office in Muscatine County and says it's a seasonal occurrence. But it is something his office fields calls on every single year.

"Everybody says there's millions of fish dying. And unless you know what you're looking for, they'll say they look like crappies or something like that because they are silvery, but they're all gizzard shad," added Schonhoff.

All this is thanks to the weather because shad fish are pretty intolerant to extreme changes in temperatures. This is about as far north as they go and, even here, they aren't well adapted to the climate. Shad populations increase during a series of warm years then are almost eliminated during cold years. The roller coaster temperatures this winter and spring probably contributed to even more dying than usual.

"Could have added up a little bit extra," said Schonhoff, "it's kind of based on the numbers. Usually the younger the year the smaller ones up to six, seven inches."

But other than it being an unsightly and smelly situation, environmental officials say it's not a cause for concern. As it turns out it's mostly just an easy snack for other area wildlife. "Everything eats them, the catfish like them, other fish like them, and birds like them."

Conservation officers say anytime there are multiple species of fish washed up on the shoreline that could be a problem. In those cases they would further investigate a fish kill.

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