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Dead fish spotted along shore in Euclid due to strong winds shifting oxygen-depleted water, ODNR says

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Posted at 4:34 PM, Jul 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 18:26:00-04

EUCLID, Ohio — On Sunday, News 5 received calls from viewers asking about all the dead fish in the water and on the shore in Euclid at and around Sims Park. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources told us this commonly happens in the summer when strong winds cause hypoxic, or oxygen-depleted, water to rise to the surface near the shore.

ODNR staff noticed the dead fish Sunday, consisting mostly of large freshwater drum fish, according to Wildlife Communications Specialist Jamey Emmert.

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ODNR staff determined that strong northeast winds that occurred on Saturday forced a mass of oxygen-depleted water in the lower layer of the lake, known as the hypolimnion, to move shoreward, subsequently forcing the fish to move towards the shore to avoid the low oxygen, according to ODNR.

“This is why people are finding them washed ashore or floating near the shore,” Emmert said. “In events of extreme upwellings like the one that occurred recently, the hypolimnion…was forced very close to the shoreline and essentially suffocated the fish that were not able to avoid it.”

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration appears to confirm the hypoxia, Emmert said, with forecast maps of Lake Erie showing oxygen-depleted water moving towards the shoreline Saturday and Sunday.

Animated forecast image showing the temperature and oxygen level in Lake Erie from Friday night to Sunday night.

Fish kills like the one that occurred this weekend usually happen every few years, but the conditions that lead to them are present every summer, Emmert said. The public may notice a slight or strong odor from the decomposing material in the shoreline areas.

Overall, fish populations have not been impacted, and scavengers like great blue herons, bald eagles, turkey vultures, racoons and snapping turtles will help to clean up the dead and dying fish, “so natural events like these makes some wildlife very happy!” Emmert said.

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