The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 30, 2013

Up-and-down weather fatal to Lake Erie fish

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

COLUMBUS — Large number of fish found along Ashtabula County’s Lake Erie shore most likely succumbed to the area’s fluctuating temperatures, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

Reports are arriving of numerous fish kills along the coast, Jamey Emmert, Division of Wildlife spokeswoman, said Friday. In each case the fish is gizzard shad, a so-called bait fish that is dying in “very, very large numbers,” she said. Such kills among the species aren’t uncommon, Emmert said.

The most recent local fish kill report came Friday morning in Saybrook Township in the area of the Redbrook Yacht Club.

Gizzard shad are susceptible to the rise-and-fall in air and water temperature, Emmert said.

“They can’t handle the stress,” she said. “It throws off their biology.”

Unlike other fish that live in deeper water, gizzard shad prefer to stay closer to the surface, which makes them more vulnerable to the climate, Emmert said. “It all depends on the weather,” she said.

Gizzard shad have no real value to sportsmen, Emmert said. Human don’t generally eat them and they aren’t sought for trophies, she said.

“It’s a bait fish, not a sport fish,” Emmert said.

Gizzard shad, however, is prized by its fellow fish, which apparently favor them for food. According to the Division of Wildlife website, the shad is “often the most abundant food source for many sport fish in Ohio.” As a result, gizzard shad make excellent bait, according to the website. Typically, the fish weighs one pound or less and stretches 10 to 15 inches in length.

Despite their delicate nature, periodic kills don’t put a dent in the lake’s supply of gizzard shad, Emmert said. “(The fish) is very plentiful,” she said.

Gulls will enjoy feasting on the victims that wash ashore, Emmert said.