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Old 02-03-2009, 04:40 PM
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Default Lake Witchita Texas - Thousands of fish dead

Thousands of fish dead

Experts cite golden alga for killing

By Maurel Merette
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Times Record News


Photo by Torin Halsey/Times Record News
Wes Dutter, left, and Robert Mauk, of Texas
Parks & Wildlife, count, measure and classify
dead fish along the south shoreline of Lake
Wichita Monday morning. A golden alga bloom
in the lake has killed thousands of fish.



Photo by Torin Halsey/Times Record News
A golden alga bloom on Lake Wichita has
killed a large number of fish including
shad and drum. Many other species are
also affected.



Photo by Torin Halsey/Times Record News
A spotted gar, in its last few hours of life
Monday, tries weakly to get out of the
waters of Lake Wichita.



Torin Halsey/Times Record News This hybrid
striped bass found floating on Lake Wichita
Monday is just one of thousands of fish
dying from a golden alga bloom. Texas
Parks &; Wildlife officials are studying the
event. Reports of dead fish began coming
into the Texas Parks and Wildlife inland
fisheries office since Friday.




Torin Halsey/Times Record News Water
fowl such as gulls and pelicans are seen
in increasing concentrations due to the
fish kill on Lake Wichita. Thousands of
fish have died due to a golden alga
bloom in the lake.



Torin Halsey/Times Record News Robert
Mauk, assistant district biologist, and
Wes Dutter, a fish and wildlife tech,
count, measure and classify thousands
of dead fish washing up on the shoreline
of Lake Wichita. Texas Parks & Wildlife
have analyzed water samples from the l
ake and found high concentrations of
golden alga cell.


Mark Howell has seen some fish kills in the past, but this one has put more fish belly-up in Lake Wichita than any other he can recall.
“It’s the worst one we’ve ever had in Lake Wichita, probably 10 times worse than the last one in March of 2007,” said Howell, wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife inland fisheries office.
The office is sizing up the effects of a damaging bloom of golden alga that has affected thousands of fish in the shallow lake.
Howell said reports of dead fish began arriving at the local office Friday. By Saturday, the reports were much worse.
“We have people out on the lake now, there’s a lot of dead fish,” Howell said.
By Monday afternoon, fish, including some crappie, large mouth bass and a few hybrid striped bass had floated ashore. Howell expects the total loss to surpass 100,000 fish.
Golden alga blooms are not uncommon, but can cause heavy damage to relatively shallow bodies of water such as Lake Wichita where the sun penetrates the water and encourages its growth.
Blooms can be caused by several factors. An increase in nutrients can cause algae growth and reproduction to increase dramatically into a bloom just as fertilizing a lawn makes the grass grow faster.
Howell said golden alga blooms are natural events and not man-made. “There’s alga cells in the lake all the time,” he said. “But when certain conditions come together, when that happens it becomes toxic to fish and gill-breathing organisms. This kind of alga comes up in the winter time and can outgrow the green algae in the lake.”
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site says algal blooms occur in both marine and freshwater environments when an algal species out competes other species and reproduces rapidly. Algal blooms can even discolor the water because of the large number of cells.
A harmful algal bloom specifically produces toxins that are harmful to fish.
But the toxins, while toxic to fish, are not considered to be toxic to humans, cattle or other animals, Howell said.
Howell recommends folks to not try to handle dead fish which might have been affected by the golden alga with their bare hands.
“There’s not a threat to people from the golden alga; but at the same time, we don’t recommend people to handle dead fish,” he said. “Pick them up with gloves or a shovel and dispose of them properly.”
Howell expects to conduct a survey later on in the spring to ascertain the number of fish left. They will devise a restocking strategy based on those findings.
He also said that it will take some time for the effects of this golden alga bloom to subside.
“It kind of has to run its course. A good rain would help flush it out, but we don’t have any rain coming up in the next few days,” he said.
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