State probes Lake St. Clair fish kills

Harrison Township— Residents along the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair could be in for a nasty — and funky — shock when the canals and beaches fully thaw, unleashing thousands and thousands of dead shad fish that have been clogging the waterways for months.

The cause of the massive fish die-offs, which began in mid-December, remains a mystery to state investigators. But it’s clear that once the ice and snow are gone, many homeowners along the waters will likely face mounds of rotting shad carcasses.

The Venetian Drive neighborhood in Harrison Township could wind up with those problems. After seeing clouds of dead 5- to 6-inch silver shad piling up in the canal behind his home, Garrett Baitinger called longtime friend Lloyd Kimmen to take a look.

Dead gizzard shad is a common sight this time of year — but not in the tens to hundreds of thousands being reported this winter. Forecasters with the National Weather Service expect the ice and snow on the water to begin breaking up mid-month, meaning the fish smell trapped below could soon be released.

“I personally have never seen anything like this,” said Kimmen, who lives in Columbus Township in St. Clair County. “You see the occasional fish frozen in the ice or something — but never enough to fill garbage cans like that.”

State officials have been investigating the large number of dead shad for roughly two months, but so far they have no conclusive answers. Many collected for testing in mid-January showed signs of infection — visible bloody lesions and lethargy — from viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS). As recently as 2005 and 2006, the virus was responsible for large fish kills in Lake St. Clair.

From The Detroit News:

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Category: MCBA News