Understanding summer fish kills: Why dead fish are washing up on Michigan shores

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NORTHERN MICHIGAN (WPBN/WGTU) — As temperatures warm up, we could be seeing more dead fish washing up on shore.

When you walk along the shore of Crystal Lake in Benzie County and see all these dead fish, it might be startling.

But the DNR says summer fish kills like this one is common this time of year.

“Temperature has a lot to do with it. And as everyone knows, it’s been pretty dry and hot throughout most of Michigan this year,” Michigan DNR Fisheries Coordinator Jay Wesley said. “So we’re anticipating that the lake water temperatures are a little bit warmer than what they normally will be this time of year. And anytime we get temperature spikes, we worry about fish gills.”

But if there are fish dying off, you will mostly see them on inland lakes.

“Shallower lakes, smaller lakes, lakes that have more vegetation around them are typically more prone to a fish kill than a deeper, clear lake,” Wesley said.

So far, the DNR has received reports of dead fish on Crystal Lake.

“It was mostly rock bass and some bluegill maybe some bullhead catfish type fish,” Wesley said.

And you might remember last summer when we saw hundreds of alewives wash onshore of Lake Michigan. But it seems like that won’t be an issue this summer.

Wesley, “That was really an unusual event because we haven’t had alewife die-offs for about 10 years,” Wesley said. “And it has more to do I think with the population alewife in Lake Michigan so that the population has gone up a little bit.”

If you encounter dead fish whether that’s on the Great Lakes or inland lakes, the DNR asks you to submit photos to their website called “Eyes in the Field,” so they can have a better idea if it’s due to a disease or nothing to worry about.