Harsh winter is causing fish kills on area lakes - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Harsh winter is causing fish kills on area lakes

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Chippewa County (WQOW) - Ahigh school science project is proving to be a unique learning opportunity forarea students, But it's also helped alert the DNR to a potential problem.

This winter has beenhard on everyone and its effects could leave some small lakes with a very bigproblem.

Ledby science teacher Kevin Mesiar, students were testing the water for a yearlong project, when they made an interesting discovery.

"Aswe got down near the south end of the lake we noticed some discolored water onthe ice," Mesiar said. "It was a reddish brown water which we didn't seeanywhere else and that can indicate fish decomposition."

Oneof the only ways you can find out if there's winter fish kill is stick a cameradown a hole.

"Myfriend brought his aquaview camera down and we noticed immediately that therewere dead pan fish on the bottom," said Mesiar.

"Wehad a very cold fall, we had a lot of ice out on the lakes early, and the deepsnow pack we've had this winter, basically those two things combined lead tothe winter fish kill situation that we see," said DNR Fisheries Biologist HeathBenike.

TheDNR says that it's small lakes like HorseshoeLake in Chippewa Countythat are the most susceptible to winter fish kill.

"Thebigger lakes like Wissota, Lake Altoona, and Lake Eau Clairethose lakes are fine," Benike said. "Most lakes have enough oxygen reserved tolast the winter it's just the shallow lakes that don't have enough reserved andactually the fish and aquatic life will die."

"Nowif Horseshow Lake had a high level of oxygen likeit's supposed to it should fall in the eight to 10 parts per million and hereit's near zero," Mesiar said.

"Generally when youget to two parts per millionth the bluegills and bass will die," said Benike. "Whenyou get below one part per million the yellow perch and pike will die and ifyou get below that then the bull heads die and they're the most tolerantfish."

"From a scientist'sperspective it's a really unique experience and cool to see," said Mesiar. "Butfrom an angler's perspective it's really sad to see. I've fished this lake alot and caught a lot of trophy fish.

Theyset out to learn about lake temperature, but it looks like Mr. Mesiar'sstudents got an unexpected lesson.

"It'sa turn that I think will be a good learning experience," he said. "They will getto see what's changed how it's changed and also get to see the ramifications ofa large winter fish kill due to low dissolved oxygen."

Rightnow the DNR says it's too early to tell how many fish the winter kill withaffect.

Butthey say if the kill is very significant they will re-stock lakes with fish.

Whilethat's a bit of good news, it will take five to seven years for those fish togrow up and become keepers.

TheDNR is also encouraging anglers who spot any fish kills to call and let themknow. 

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