Thursday, August 17, 2006

Catfish Tragedy on the Ottawa River

Although the test results won't be ready until tomorrow, I am ready to get into some half-baked conjecture about what will emerge. Generally, I think Riverkeeper has it right, though I don't agree that the sewage spill had much of an impact. Chats Lake, where the carnage has been worst, at the confluence of the Ottawa, Madawaska, and Mississippi rivers, is very shallow and water temperatures rise quickly in hot weather like we've had this summer. A fatal coincidence of events took place when heavy rains filled the Madawaska and Mississipi rivers with farm run-off from Lanark and Renfew counties, pouring nutrients into Chats Lake and creating a warm hypoxic soup. The resulting algal bloom deprived the heat-weakened fish of oxygen and made a crowded catfishery particularly vulnerable to bacteria like columnaris. An MNR study several years ago revealed that there are over 90,000 channel catfish in this part of the river, contained by four dams. At as much as 90% of fishery, if fish are going to die, they'll be channel cats.

I spoke with my mom this morning and she reports that the smell of rotting fish is tapering off so maybe we're close to the end. I hope the damage hasn't been too severe. I've got $400 worth of catfishing tackle that will be pretty darn useless if those catfish are all dead.

1 comment:

Webber said...

And I have a $20 dollar license I would like to use. Sometime.