“Several concerned people have called about finding the fish dead along the Little River,” said Riester. “We had an investigative crew at the river on Wednesday and Thursday. There, we counted thousands of dead yellow bass, a few freshwater drum and catfish and only one crappie.”
Riester said that Fish and Wildlife investigators arrived at the scene several days after the fish died. He said that the advanced decomposition of the fish made it difficult to determine exactly why they died, though he did have theories.
“We’ve done tests, and there is nothing wrong with the water. We have not looked for a pest control chemical spill. The fact that we only found one species killed indicates it’s species specific. If it were chemicals or oxygen in the water, it would have killed the shad first. It would not cull a type of fish, but kill everything.”
Riester said that he suspected a bacterial or viral infection, though found no recently dead or dying fish to send to laboratories for post-mortem examination.
He said, “The suggestion with one type of fish is that it may be viral. They are under post-spawning stress as their body condition is down because they eat less while spawning. The increase in water temperature probably elevated the risk.”
The kill should leave few lingering problems. Riester said raccoons and birds would eat the carcasses and other fish would not be threatened by the pathogen. “The water is safe to swim in. The problem at the beach is due to e. coli, though people can swim from their own docks or off a boat in Lake Barkley with no problems.”
Riester said that the yellow bass were not the same species as the popular largemouth or smallmouth bass sought by sport fishermen at the lake. He added that the kill did not appear to have any effect on crappie, another fish popular for sports fishermen. “They’re primarily a nuisance fish because they often take the bait off a hook. Some people eat them.”
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.