BAY VILLAGE, Ohio (WJW) – Thousands of dead fish are washing up along the southern shore of Lake Erie, but experts say the phenomenon shouldn’t concern people.
On Monday, the fish were spotted near Huntington Beach, a popular recreation area in Ohio’s Bay Village. There were also reports of a large number of the dead fish along the shoreline in Vermilion, roughly 25 miles west.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the fish started washing ashore near Toledo last week, along Lake Erie’s shallower western basin.
ODNR said it has taken reports and studied every possible explanation, and determined there is nothing for Ohioans to worry about.
“We have been keeping an eye on it. Our biologists or wildlife officers have been checking in or reporting anything that they have been witnessing or reports from Ohioans. And it seems just to be very species-specific, which leads us to believe again it’s very routine,” said ODNR spokeswoman Jamey Emmert.
The ODNR said algae blooms, which can rob the lake of oxygen, do not happen until later in the season and there is nothing to indicate this is pollution related. Likewise, there is no reason to believe the fish kill is the result of something man-made or sinister.
Emmert said the kill is very species specific, which gives them another clue.
“Every single spring we experience a pretty massive fish kill, but it’s nothing to concern Ohioans about because this is pretty typical stuff. It usually involves either shad, which are a bait fish, meaning food fish for game species, like walleye for instance. And in this particular case, it seems to involve sheepshead, which are also known as freshwater drum,” said Emmert.
Emmert explained the sheephead, or freshwater drum, are susceptible to temperature changes and can become stressed during their spawning season.
“It got really warm and then it got really cold and it got really warm again. And it’s stressful for us, but typically humans can hack it even if we get pretty frustrated with it,” said Emmert.
At Huntington Beach on Monday, some of the visitors remarked about the dead fish.
“It’s not the most pleasant thing, but like I explained to them, it’s part of nature. It’s a good little teaching moment,” said Marissa Himes, of North Ridgeville.
“It’s stinky and it’s unpleasant to look at. There’s a lot of wildlife that benefit from it though and they are certainly not minding scavenging all these dead fish,” Emmert said.