Warm weather revealing fish kills in Utah ponds

Wildlife • Long winter takes toll on Clinton Pond and Stansbury Lake.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Warming temperatures are starting to excite anglers across the state, but melting ice is revealing some worrisome findings.

As ice retreats from low-elevation ponds, officials at two northern waters are reporting recently revealed fish kills.

The Clinton Park Pond in Clinton is managed as part of the state's community fishing program. Fisheries biologists with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) expect the entire population of fish at Clinton was lost.

"If there was ever going to be a year we lost fish, this would be it," said Drew Cushing, warm-water fisheries coordinator for the DWR. "The amount of ice and length of time we had snow on the ice was just too much."

Winter kills, as they are often called, typically happen in shallow ponds and lakes with a lot of vegetation and a sizable population of fish.

"When sunlight can't get to the plants and plankton there isn't any oxygen being produced," said Chris Penne, an aquatic biologist in the DWR's northern region. "It is pretty much a blackout."

The biologists expect a similar winter kill event occurred at Stansbury Lake, a private homeowners association fishery, in Stansbury. Cushing said that kill did not appear to be a complete wipeout and that some younger fish likely survived.

Clinton Pond was not designed as a fishery but primarily as a stormwater storage area. Cushing said winter kills could continue to be a problem there unless there are efforts like an oxygen aerator to prevent it from happening.

Because it is a community fishery, Clinton Pond was already scheduled for stocking of trout and catfish this year. Extra money will have to be found to replace the largemouth bass and bluegill populations.

Both biologists suspect these are not likely to be the only cases of winter kill this spring.

"It would not surprise me that more cases appear as the ice comes off of more places as the weather continues to warm," Penne said.


Twitter: @BrettPrettyman