Mona Lake - Thousands of fish are floating to the surface in lakes around West Michigan. The dead fish are creating a smelly mess for homeowners and visitors at Lake Macatawa, Spring Lake, and Mona Lake.
You can't miss the dead fish lining the shores of Mona Lake. Biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources say the fish, mostly gizzard shad, are dying because of the weather, not any kind of chemical or illness.
Joyce Gillette has lived on Mona Lake for 32 years and has never seen a fish kill like this one. She says, “I have boat lifts here and they're all caught. Isn't it awful?"
Dead gizzard shad keep washing ashore. Gillette says this is normally a beautiful spot to enjoy nature. But now, she complains, “The smell is nauseating. Dead fish don't smell good anyway. But, there's so many of them."
There are too many dead fish for the birds that normally eat them. Gillette recalls, “Before the ice completely melted, they would flip them onto the ice and they would eat them. But, there's just too many now. There's just too many. They can't keep up."
Jay Wesley with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Unit says the fish probably died from a lack of oxygen under the ice this winter. He says gizzard shad are particularly vulnerable to the low oxygen levels that are an ongoing problem in Mona Lake.
Longtime Mona Lake resident Rick Tice also blames the weather. He says, “It was frozen solid from shoreline to shoreline.” As for the fish kill, Tice says, “I've never seen it this bad, this is horrible."
It may not be over. DNR Biologists say we could continue to see more dead fish showing up in Mona Lake and other waterways through June.
For Gillette, that's reason enough to keep her dog out of the water. She says, “You know, when you get a fish smell on a dog, you can't get it off. It's worse than a skunk."
DNR says the quickly changing temperatures also cause a lot of stress on fish this time of year. That's why we could see more and different kinds of fish dying in the next couple months.