Mysterious Fish die-off in Kentucky – 07/26/2007

  • December 5, 2013 at 10:57 pm #1668

    Little Clifty Creek fish kill remains a mystery

    By BILL MARDIS, Editor Emeritus
    Commonwealth Journal

    Somerset — The fish kill on Little Clifty Creek in western Pulaski County is still a mystery.

    “At this point, we don’t know (for sure) what caused it,” said Mike Hardin, chief of the Environmental Section, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The oxygen level was fine … it (oxygen) was not suppressed enough to kill fish.”

    John Williams, district biologist for the Southeastern Fisheries District, checked the creek on July 12, the same day a reporter called to report the incident. Williams said he is looking at the possibility that manure may have washed into the creek causing the fish kill.

    The dead fish were first noticed on the creek bank by Emmett Lanham, pastor of Tabernacle Pentecostal Ministries and founder of nearby Camp Dove, a religious retreat. Lanham called a reporter and a story and photograph of the dead fish were published in the Commonwealth Journal on July 13.

    Hardin said Williams tested the oxygen level in the creek that day and it was 6.85. “Anything below 4 will kill fish,” Hardin noted. He said there have been natural fish kills this summer due to the drought.

    “The oxygen was OK,” said Williams in a later conversation with the Commonwealth Journal. “It wasn’t lack of oxygen … the oxygen level in the creek was fine.”

    Williams said he found at least 500 dead fish in various stages of decomposition at five spots along the creek bordering Bethlehem and Valley roads. “And there may have been many more,” he added.

    Apparently whatever killed the fish is no longer in the creek. Williams said live fish were swimming in the water near where the dead fish were on the banks.

    A man who has fished in Little Clifty Creek since “I was a kid” is disturbed about what has happened to his favorite fishing spot.

    Robert Hudson, who currently lives on Country Lane about a mile above Little Clifty, said he has walked three or four miles along the creek bank and there were dead fish “stacked up” all along the area where he walked.

    Worse than that, Hudson said, he observed a doe drinking out of the creek at a bridge near Camp Dove. Hudson said he saw the doe again about 150 feet across the road and the animal appeared very sick.

    “The doe was vomiting … it was skin and bones … that deer was dying,” said Hudson.

    The water in the creek had a red tinge, according to Hudson. “It looked like rust … if it were more than four inches deep, you couldn’t see the bottom.”

    Most of the dead fish were creek chubs, Hudson said. He said fish as large as 6 inches were lying on the bank. “They were chubs … I only saw one or two bluegill,” he said.

    “People have told me that the water is hot and lost its oxygen, but I don’t believe that,” said Hudson. “I’m a bricklayer and I know heat … it just hasn’t been that hot this summer.”

    “Our main focus now is to make sure steps are in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Williams emphasized. He said the investigation continues and he was planning another trip to the area Thursday.

    Little Clifty Creek flows into Big Clifty Creek, then into Fishing Creek and eventually into Lake Cumberland.’

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