The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

March 31, 2014

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Winterkill possible as ice retreats

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is reminding people that fish kills may be common in ponds and small lakes as the ice and snow of the past few months gives way to spring.

Winter fish dieoffs caused by long periods of heavy ice and snow cover on small waters are referred to as winterkills. Winterkill is caused when persistent ice forms a surface barrier between the water and air that prevents circulation of oxygen and blocks sunlight. If these conditions continue long enough, the oxygen fish need to survive may be depleted and result in some or all of the fish suffocating. Lacking sunlight, plants stop making oxygen and eventually start to use it as they die and decompose.

Winterkill is most common in shallow ponds and typically results in dead fish being seen along the shore. Ohio’s northern counties are usually most susceptible to winterkill because of colder temperatures and more frequent snows, but this year winterkill of ponds is possible throughout Ohio.

Some fish dieoffs are expected in Ohio’s larger lakes as well this year, but for different reasons. Fish such as gizzard shad, which are less tolerant of long, cold winters, are commonly seen along the shorelines of reservoirs and even Lake Erie during moderate winters. However, in larger waters, the species that commonly die off following winter are resilient and return in great numbers following a single spawning season.

Unusual water coloration, strong odors or other unusual conditions may be indicative of non-natural causes and can be reported to the Division of Wildlife. Call 800-WILDLIFE to report a suspicious fish winterkill. Go to www.wildohio.com to learn more about fish and preventing winterkills.

Mussels workshop

How many opportunities do you get to learn from experts about the fascinating world of freshwater mussels and then get your feet wet in one of the most mussel friendly waterways in Ohio?

Not many is the answer, so don’t miss out on a unique opportunity this summer! A workshop for anyone interested in mussels will be held on Saturday, June 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lake Metroparks’ Penitentiary Glen Reservation. Field experiences will take place at Indian Point Park and/or Hidden Valley Park in the Grand River.

For a registration fee of only $20 (including breakfast and lunch), researchers and education professionals will share freshwater mussel biology, identification, survey techniques, and threats to mussel populations through formal presentations and hands-on opportunities. Professionals from Cleveland State, Division of Wildlife, Otterbein University, and The Ohio State University will present throughout the morning. In the afternoon, participants will be transported to the Grand River where they will put their newfound knowledge to use while searching for freshwater mussels.

More information, including a flyer, can be found at www.ohioprojectwild.org or www.lakemetroparks.com. Register by May 19 to reserve your seat at this unique program by contacting Lake Metroparks at (440) 358-7275 or (800) 669-9226. For workshop-related questions, contact Andy Avram, Lake Metroparks at (440) 256-2112 or Jamey Emmert, Division of Wildlife at (330) 245-3020.

Freshwater mussels are not only amazing creatures but they are also an essential component to our environment, holding great value for humans and nature alike. They are important environmental indicators, helping us understand the true health of our planet. Despite their crucial position in the ecosystem, however, they are some of the most imperiled animals on Earth. Learn more about these creatures, their struggle for survival, and how you can help by attending this workshop.

Hope to see you there!

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