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Why are dozens of dead fish appearing along shore at Wingra Creek?

Why are dozens of dead fish appearing along shore at Wingra Creek?

MADISON, Wis. - Dozens of dead fish are lining the Wingra Creek shoreline. It's something Madison resident Derek Benoist noticed on his daily walk at Quann Park. Benoist said it was jarring to see. 

"I walk out here pretty much every day, and it happened pretty much overnight. It was a little alarming to me to see all these fish on the shore," Benoist said. 

Benoist called the Department of Natural Resources, originally thinking "it was due to human involvement."

The DNR fisheries team supervisor David Rowe said it's not from chemical dumping like some people may think. It happened naturally. 

"It's due to bacteria that's naturally occurring," Rowe said. "Because we've had this real weird spring weather where it's been warm and then cool and then warm and cool, and then we get rain, the fish that are hanging out in shallow areas, like little lagoons or side channels, are experiencing that variability. They're getting kind of stressed out, and it leads them to be susceptible to this bacteria."

The fish are all bluegills, which Rowe said tend to crowd in shallow areas to warm up quickly, but these areas tend to have poor water quality and variable temperatures. Rowe said the wind and currents tend to bunch the dead fish along the sides of the creek once their bodies rise to the surface. This is something that Rowe said will be common to see when the weather fluctuates so much, especially after such a harsh winter. 

"It was a relief to know that it wasn't due to chemicals," Benoist said. 

While you can always report a group of dead fish to the DNR, they say the only time you really need to worry is when you see hundreds of dead fish appear at once. 

Rowe said if you see the fish, do not eat them. Pick them up with gloves and throw them away. 

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