Dead Fish in Grand Island Lake Begin to Wash Ashore

Suchs Lake

City workers are cleaning-up dead fish that are washing ashore after low oxygen levels killed off an estimated 2,000 fish in one Grand Island lake.

The recent warmer conditions have caused ice to begin thawing allowing dead fish in Suchs Lake to begin washing up on the shore, causing a bit of a stink for the area.

An angler ice fishing on Suchs Lake reported the fish kill to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in early January.

A preliminary investigation revealed that low oxygen levels in the water led to the die-off, said fish and wildlife biologist Brad Eifert, of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

"We had oxygen levels below one part per million, which is lethal to most fish species," he said.

One cause for those low oxygen levels, he said, could be snow that covered the lake at the beginning of the year, making it impossible for fish to breathe.

"The heavy snow cover inhibits sunlight penetration into the water," Eifert said, "which doesn't allow the plants to photosynthesize and produce oxygen, so when that happens, the plants actually use oxygen and then the oxygen levels drop fairly rapidly."

"It's a natural occurrence, it happens throughout the Midwest and it seems to happen to a lot of the smaller lakes and ponds," Todd McCoy, director of the Grand Island Parks and Recreation Department, said.

City officials also said that the large number of geese that inhabit the lake may have played a part in the low oxygen levels. Waste from the waterfowl raises nitrogen levels and increases the amount of algae in the lake.

This will probably mean fewer fish for anglers interested in fishing at the lake this year.

Eifert says replacing the possible thousands of fish lost will be costly. At about $1.50 per fish, restocking the lake could add up to about $3,000.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission fisheries specialist Brad Newcomb says the commission is unlikely to continue stocking fish at the lake until the city reduces the number of waterfowl there.