State biologists attribute a fish kill in Salmon Lake, which consists of McGrath and Ellis ponds to a weather pattern that rapidly cooled warm pond waters and proved too stressful for the fish.

Jason Seiders, fisheries biologist for the Belgrade Lakes region, said he has received reports of dead fish cropping up in both ponds, which are bordered by Belgrade and Oakland.

Seiders, who works for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, said the fish affected include warm-water fish, such as white perch, yellow perch, bass and sunfish.

“The fish are washing up on shore; some are dead and some are close to dying,” he said. “We’ve seen dozens of fish wash up in places, but it’s pretty constant throughout this week,” he said.

More reports came in on Friday.

Seiders said he took samples of the dead fish to fish pathologist David Russell, who did an analysis and determined that the fish had died from parasites and fungal infections.

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Seiders said the thermal fluctuation several weeks ago occurred during spawning season, when the adult fish are already stressed, and made them more susceptible to fungal infections and parasites.

“The shallow water areas where they like to hang out were in the mid to upper 70s. Then there was rapid cooling with really cool nights and winds,” he said. “They had pretty much adjusted to that warm water, and we turned on the cold.”

He added, “There’s really nothing that can be done. This is quite literally an act of nature. We feel that these things happen if conditions are just right. Sometimes they go unnoticed.”

Seiders said it is safe to swim and fish in the ponds. If people choose to eat the fish caught, they should cook it thoroughly.

Seiders warned against eating the dead fish that wash up.

“The white perch population on Salmon Pond is quite dense, so there are high numbers of dead perch,” he said, adding that people can leave the dead fish alone, bury them or compost them. On the white perch, the fungal infection appears as a fuzzy gray cottony growth on the fish; the parasitic infection is visible only through a microscope, he said.

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If anyone sees a fish kill, which biologists describe as multiple dead or dying fish, they can report it to 287-8000, the main number of the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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