Thousands of fish suddenly die in Central Illinois lake

Local News

LODA, Ill. (WCIA) — Homeowners near Lake Iroquois woke up Sunday morning to the strange sight and smell of dead fish. 

Neighbors tried to clean up an endless amount of fish carcasses throughout the day.

The Illinois Conservation Police have a few theories, but they won’t know for sure until the state EPA comes out tomorrow to test the water.

The game warden says a fish kill like this is devastating to the ecosystem. To use one of his phrases when he showed up, “the area smells like the ocean.”

“I got in my boat, drove out and looked. It was extensive,” Jim Shearl said.

Jim Shearl says he’s never seen anything like it in the 13 years he’s lived here. Thousands of dead fish.

“We’re particularly proud of our swim beach here and we had a lot of fish on that,” Shearl said.

Shearl’s a board member for the Lake Iroquois Association. Their clean-up started Sunday morning.

“We had 30 people working on this swim beach for four hours, and they were all working hard so we had a lot of fish,” Shearl said.

Hours later, volunteers are still trying to scoop them all up.

Shane Kleinert is a member of the bass fishing club here.    

“I’m hoping it’s not going to change anything for the bass, we haven’t been seeing too many of them die,” Kleinert said.

He’s been fishing since he was a kid, and says from what he’s seen, this fish kill affected several breeds. Kleinert says he spotted shad and yellow bass.

“We’re seeing quite a bit of catfish, they’re seeing carp over there by the pond that floated up over there, some like 30 pounds or so, we’ve got wall-eye in here that have really taken a hit,” Kleinert said.

The Illinois Conservation Police says that might not be all. Larger dead fish often take longer to float to the surface.

Kleinert says he’s hoping the problem isn’t too widespread.

“If it really takes a toll on all the fish it’s going to take a few years to rebuild the stocking programs, but if we have some that make it through we’ll be okay,” Kleinert said.

Shearl and others are ready to move forward, as soon as the EPA gives the green light.

“They’re going to take some water samples and figure out what’s going on here, trying to get the fish population stabilized again,” Shearl said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.