Dead fish in Ohio’s ponds and lakes are ‘fairly common’ following winter thaw, ODNR says

Dead fish in Ohio’s ponds and lakes are ‘fairly common’ following winter thaw, ODNR says
Dead fish in Lake Erie (Source; WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - It could be an alarming sight: Dead fish floating belly up in the water. But the Ohio Department of Natural Resources says it likely has nothing to do with the water quality.

It’s commonly referred to as “winterkills,” according to the ODNR.

A small number of fish may be found dead in Ohio’s ponds and lakes as winter transitions to spring. The fish deaths result from long periods of heavy ice and snow cover on bodies of water, which prevents oxygen and sunlight from circulating to the water.

“Minor fish kills do not significantly impact fish populations or sport fishing opportunities in lakes and reservoirs,” said Kendra Wecker, chief of the ODNR Division of Wildlife. “Fish kills are fairly common in Ohio, particularly right after ice-out, from late April through mid-June, and during prolonged periods of hot summer weather.”

If the wintry barrier is in place long enough, the fish are depleted of essential oxygen and eventually suffocate.

Winterkills are most common shallow ponds, but can occur in Ohio’s larger lakes too.

Certain species of fish like the gizzard shad are even more vulnerable to long, cold winters, but they usually rebound following a single spawning season, according to the ODNR.

Dead fish should not be handled by citizens. Visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website or call 800-WILDLIFE to report large numbers of fish.

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