More than 5,000 dead fish have been washing up on the shores of Pymatuning Lake, at Pymatuning State Park in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and threaten to put a damper on Memorial Day activities.
The dead fish comprise all of the lake’s species, but 90 percent seem to be crappie, said Pennsylvania’s Pymatuning State Park Manager Pete Houghton.
The dead fish started washing up May 15 and prompted a ‘do not eat’ consumption advisory from the Pennsylvania departments of Environmental Protection and Health, and the Fish and Boat Commission for all species of fish taken from the Pymatuning Reservoir while officials investigate the cause of the fish kill, according to a press release.
Pymatuning Lake is 16,349-acre popular fishing, boating and recreational water reservoir that is shared by Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“It is hard to determine in the lake of this size, but without the official results, we feel the cause is something natural,” Houghton said. “We have been taking a lot of samples from tributaries, rivers, different points of the lake, dead fish, live fish, and all of the initial results have showed nothing chemical.”
Plus, Houghton has been hearing reports of the same occurrence in other lakes around the state.
“The weather we had in April with 80 degrees one day and then snow and freezing the next, is very stressful for fish in the spawning cycle,” he said. “This is our best guess, without official results.”
Water samples have been collected and are being tested at the DEP laboratory in Harrisburg, Pa. Fish samples are being tested by the Fish and Boat Commission and at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y. The Ohio Department of Parks is assisting in the investigation, according to a press release.
In Andover, dead fish are washing up near Pymatuning Lake’s main beach because of the direction of the wind, said Ohio Pymatuning Lake Park Manager Phil Vichosky.
“We plan to have our beaches open with advisories posted, explaining about the dead fish,” he said. “Our bacteria levels test fine.”
However, because of the direction of the wind, if too many dead fish wash up on shore, Vichosky may close the beach gates.
Houghton plans to open his beaches for the holiday weekend with an advisory explaining about the dead fish, but says his water is crystal-clear and all bacteria levels are good.
“We’re just advising people not to eat their fish until the final results come back,” Houghton said.