Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 23, 2010

Hundreds of dead fish found in Deep Creek Lake

— DEEP CREEK LAKE — The mysterious deaths of hundreds of fish in Deep Creek Lake have prompted an investigation by state environmental officials and a warning to lakegoers to avoid all contact with fish carcasses.

As of Thursday afternoon, approximately 200 fish had been found dead in and around the lake, in what Maryland Department of the Environment spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus called “a localized, sustained fish kill.”

“At this time, no evidence suggests a threat to human health; however, visitors and residents are advised to avoid touching, swimming with, or coming into close proximity to any dead fish,” MDE officials stated in a news release.

Stoltzfus said the first dead fish began appearing Saturday.

The cause and exact location of the fish kill is still unknown. It appears to have occurred in the deepest part of the lake, Stoltzfus said, because most of the dead fish have been large adults. Shallower waters do not seem to be affected, at this point.

Many fish have washed up on the beach in the Green Glade Cove area, but that could be due to the direction the wind blows off the lake.

“Where they’re ending up isn’t necessarily where the fish kill is happening,” she said.

The majority of the dead fish have been yellow perch, but walleye, smallmouth bass, brown bullhead, largemouth bass, bluegill, chain pickerel, Northern pike and crayfish carcasses have also been found.

MDE and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources have launched an investigation into the cause of the fish kill. Investigators will conduct water quality, carcass and fish feces testing, and a diagnostic analysis of affected species.

On July 11, an electrical malfunction at a pump station caused 42,000 gallons of sewage to overflow along the shore of the lake, near the intersection of U.S. Route 219 and Lake Shore Drive. But Stoltzfus said investigators have not yet found evidence that points to any specific cause for the fish kill, including the sewage spill.

Fish kills are a very unusual occurrence at Deep Creek Lake. MDE only has record of one other such incident, in 2004, in which an individual reported 78 dead yellow perch. When investigators arrived at the lake, they did not find any fish carcasses or any evidence that pointed to a cause for a fish kill.

People who find dead fish in the lake area or have information about anything that could have contributed to the ongoing incident should contact MDE at 443-482-2732.

Contact Megan Miller at mmiller@times-news.com.

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