MT FWP explains winter “fish kill”News Type: State Source: KXLH
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State biologists are reporting dead fish in the water by Riverfront Park in south Billings, and they expect more in other areas as the winter ice melts.
Winter “fish kills” begin when plants at the bottom of ponds freeze, then get covered by the deep snow, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
With the sunlight prevented from reaching the bottom due to ice and snow, the plants die and are consumed by bacteria, which suck all the oxygen out of the water, biologist said.
Fish that are now floating on the surface died due to anoxia, a reaction to the lack of oxygen in the water.
At Riverfront Park, biologists have discovered tiger muskies, big-mouth buffalo, river carpsuckers, white suckers, long-nose suckers, carp, crappies, sunfish and a few bass.
Scavenging animals will likely clear out most of the dead fish, and the remainder will sink to the bottom, according to MT FWP.
There is a silver lining, however: fewer fish in the pond means less competition for food, which could mean bigger fish for anglers, according to Mike Ruggles, an FWP biologist.
Lake Elmo in Billings Heights has traditionally been immune to this phenomenon because it has deeper spots and less vegetation on the bottom.