Dead fish appearing in Kosciusko County lakes

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KOSCIUSKO COUNTY, Ind. — A recent rash of fish kills in several Kosciusko County lakes have residents and anglers looking for possible causes.

The Department of Natural Resource (DNR) biologists say the causes are unknown, but the fish kills will not affect the overall health of fish populations or the quality of fishing.

Officials report that  common carp were found dead at the Barbee lakes, Hoffman, Ridinger, Robinson and Winona lakes and Lake Wawasee. Other species died at Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake, including adult white bass, bluegill, crappie, large mouth bass and bullhead catfish.

Fish kills in the spring are fairly common according to the DNR, especially when bad weather during spawning season degrades habitat conditions, according to Jed Pearson, DNR fisheries biologist. The cause of death could involve multiple factors, but identifying them is difficult.

“Unless we get our hands on fish in the actual process of dying, it is virtually impossible to identify the cause due to decomposition,” Pearson said. “And most fish kills are not reported until the fish bloat and float to the surface but by then it’s too late.”

Pearson speculated that most of the carp deaths were caused by a viral pathogen specific to the species. And at two lakes, some carp appeared to have been harvested by recreational anglers, but not disposed of properly.

The fish kills are Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake are more complicated because of the various species, sizes and locations of dead fish.

Dead fish killed in one location may float to a different location, complicating efforts to track down an exact cause of death.

Pearson added that anglers who catch fish and decide later not to keep them sometimes release them back into the lake in a stressed condition. This too can add to the number of fish that die from natural causes and create the illusion of a fish kill.

There’s no strong evidence pointing to any one cause at Wawasee and Syracuse, but residents and anglers should not see a noticeable decline in the quality of fishing based on the numbers of dead fish observed according to the DNR.

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