Lake St. Clair-area Residents Likely to Encounter Dead Fish This Spring

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The Department of Natural Resources and Environment warns Lake St. Clair-area residents that, as the ice melts, they are likely to encounter significant numbers of dead fish.

Large numbers of gizzard shad, which are at the northern edge of their range in Michigan, died this winter, probably because of the lengthy, cold winter.

“We’ve collected samples and had them analyzed,” explained DNR fisheries biologist Mike Thomas at the DNR’s Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station. “None of the samples have tested positive for any viral or bacterial disease.”

Because the process of decaying uses up available dissolved oxygen in the water, it’s likely that other near-shore species of fish – most notably bluegills, largemouth bass, rock bass and carp – will experience some mortality this winter, too. This is not unusual, Thomas said.

Most of the dead fish are expected to collect in the canals and in near-shore areas. As the temperature warms, there will be odor associated with the dead fish, Thomas said. The DNR has no plans to attempt to remove them.

“Landowners concerned about small numbers of dead fish can collect them, bag them, and dispose of them in the garbage,” Thomas said. “Or, if you have a garden, bury them for organic fertilizer.”

Landowners with large numbers of dead fish should consider burying or composting them. The Department of Environmental Quality has contacted area waste haulers regarding the large amounts of dead fish expected, and those haulers will be working with local units of government to help remove any large quantities of dead fish. Marinas and other commercial businesses affected by large amounts of dead fish should contact their waste haulers to determine the best way to dispose of them.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to