By Hayley A. Honeycutt
Wayne County Conservation Agent
Missouri Deptartment of Conservation
I have been receiving a lot of reports of dead fish on Wappapello Lake. I have witnessed some of the fish floating and piping (gasping for air). Most of the fish are larger in size. I appreciate the reports from concerned fisherman, however, I am happy to report that this is not caused by man-made pollution. What you are seeing is a natural phenomenon. Wappapello Lake is very shallow, and the top of the water is reading in the high 80s (temperature in Fahrenheit), this week. MDC posted a segment on Facebook that I thought explained it well.
“Hot, dry summer weather leads to fish kills this time of year. These are unusually natural events resulting from high water temperature and lack of oxygen in the water. As surface waters heat during summer, algae produce oxygen, which fish need to “breathe.” This oxygenated layer of water extends from the surface down several feet. However, there is usually little or no oxygen towards the bottom of a pond or lake, which means fish are confined to shallow water. As summer continues, these oxygenated waters begin to shrink and fish become restricted to only a few feet of water at the surface. Fish start to become crowded and stressed. Some may get sick because of the stress and die. If surface waters get into the mid-80s and higher (Like what is being found in Wappapello right now) large fish kills will occur because most fish cannot survive the water temperature. Algae also sucks oxygen out of the water when it dies, adding to the problem. These kills may be alarming to see, but overall fish numbers and fishing are usually not affected.”
If you DO smell or see pollution, please contact your local MDC office to report. I appreciate the work from fisherman and lake-goers. You are helping us care for this fishery with the information you provide.