State, Alabama Power workers investigate fish kill in Ohatchee - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

State, Alabama Power workers investigate fish kill in Ohatchee

Dead fish at Neely Henry Dam in Ohatchee. Source: Dixon Hayes Dead fish at Neely Henry Dam in Ohatchee. Source: Dixon Hayes
An Alabama Power employee first noticed the dead fish Monday morning. Source: Dixon Hayes An Alabama Power employee first noticed the dead fish Monday morning. Source: Dixon Hayes
So far, no fish above the dam have washed up dead. Source: Dixon Hayes So far, no fish above the dam have washed up dead. Source: Dixon Hayes
Samples from the dead fish might take up to a week to come back from a state lab for testing. Source: Dixon Hayes Samples from the dead fish might take up to a week to come back from a state lab for testing. Source: Dixon Hayes
OHATCHEE, AL (WBRC) -

Investigators are trying to find out what caused a massive fish kill below Neely Henry Dam in Ohatchee.

The fish were discovered Monday morning by an Alabama Power worker reporting to his shift at the dam. He saw a few dead fish before dawn, then in daylight saw many more.

The state Department of Conservation's Wildlife Division joined officials with ADEM and Alabama Power Monday morning to take fish, temperature and water samples. They estimate some 13,000 fish were killed in a very short period of time either late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Most of the fish were smaller fish like shad and drum, but some larger game fish, including crappie, catfish, and bass, also started washing up.

Dan Catchings, who works with the Wildlife Division's Eastaboga office, says it wasn't an oxygen problem because the fish had plenty of oxygen. He also doesn't believe it was bacteria or parasites, because the fish would've died more gradually if that were the case.

"A bacteria kill, or disease kill, will begin at low numbers and will accumulate over a period of days, the numbers will increase. But this has been a real sudden occurance," Catchings told Fox6 News

"There's apparently something toxic in the water that's working on the fish," Catchings added. "Something affected them very quickly and very acutely."

Catchings added there was no release of water just prior or during the period of time in which the fish apparently died, and no fish appear to have died above the dam.

Alabama Power spokesperson Allison Fuqua told Fox6 News the dam has released water since Monday's on-scene investigation, including a few times Tuesday. She says that may happen several more times in the next few days in hopes of removing the dead fish, the odor, and whatever killed them.

Tuesday the fish were starting to wash ashore at the Harts Ferry Boat Launch just off Highway 77. A large amount of them could be seen bobbing in the waters just beneath the dam, as fisherman still held out hope of catching live fish in an area known for especially large bass and catfish.

But some of the fishermen, including Virgil Gray of Pell City, said they'd likely throw their catch back in lieu of the fish kill.

"I've been out here about six times, we've never seen nothing like this. It's just unusual," said Gray. " I mean, I've been in ponds in Minnesota, Nebraska and everything else, Missouri, but I ain't ever seen anything quite like this."

Samples were taken by ADEM to a state lab for testing. Investigators say it could be a week before results turn up from any of the samples.

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