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Old 08-13-2009, 02:43 PM
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Default Oxygen problems kill fish at Thurmond Dam

Augusta Chronicle link
By Rob Pavey | Staff Writer
Saturday, August 08, 2009

Oxygen problems at Thurmond Dam have contributed to a series of fish kills this week that included more than 130 adult striped bass weighing 3 to more than 20 pounds, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

"State and federal biologists have investigated the situation this week and agree that the very unusual hydrology conditions this spring likely led to this event," said Jamie Sykes, fisheries biologist for the corps' Savannah District. "The biologists have also agreed that there is nothing we can do at this point to change the fate of the striped bass that are still in the lower part of Thurmond Lake."
Anglers who catch stripers near the Thurmond Dam should keep their fish. These fish are already stressed and will likely not survive a catch-and-release, he said.
Fish kills are not uncommon this time of year, as changes in the depth of oxygenated water can force baitfish closer to the turbine intakes, which can entrain the fish and cause mortality.
Typically, such fish kills involve blueback herring and baitfish.
Biologists say the heavy striped bass mortality is unprecedented for Thurmond Lake, according to a corps news release issued Friday, but are common at other reservoirs across the Southeast.
Part of the cause involves unusual spring weather that rapidly refilled a lake depleted by last year's drought. Dramatic inflows without an increase in outflow led to a change in water quality, according to the corps.
"Normally striped bass remain in a narrow band of cool and oxygenated water approximately 25 to 30 feet deep in the reservoir. Large spring in-flows that followed the worst drought in the history of the lake resulted in a lack of cool and oxygenated water at this depth," the statement said. "This lack of habitat at shallower depths enticed the striped bass to move to the deeper portions of the reservoir. As this small a habitat area degrades, the fish face asphyxiation or being pulled into the dam's turbines, called entrainment."
Reach Rob Pavey at [email protected]
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Old 08-27-2009, 03:26 PM
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Default Re: Oxygen problems kill fish at Thurmond Dam

Thurmond Lake fish kill subsiding
Augusta Chronicle link
By Rob Pavey | Staff Writer
Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009 9:27 a.m.

One of Thurmond Lake’s most severe – and most peculiar – fish kills appears to be subsiding.

”It certainly has slowed down considerably, but we are still picking up a few fish almost every day,” said Jamie Sykes, fisheries biologist for the Army Corps of Engineers.
An unusual sequence of events that included the rapid refilling of Thurmond Lake this spring after low water and drought last year has created a layer of deoxygenated water far below the surface of the reservoir. The layer, confined to the area behind the dam, trapped and asphyxiated many large gamefish.
Since Aug. 8, biologists monitoring the situation have recovered 1,727 dead fish – mostly adult striped bass from five to 10 pounds.
The fish kill has also begun affecting hybrid bass, which typically are more resistant to such fish kills, Mr. Sykes said.
Hybrid bass are manufactured by fisheries officials by crossing striped bass with white bass. The resulting sportfish is a fast-growing, hard-fighting, good eating blend of the two species that is usually more tolerant of lower oxygen levels and warmer temperatures.
“Early on, when this started, we weren’t seeing many hybrids at all,” Mr. Sykes said. “Toward the end here, mainly in the last seven days, we’ve been getting many more hybrids than stripers, as a percentage.”
This week, almost all the dead fish recovered both above and below Thurmond Dam were hybrid bass, he said. “At this point, though, we’re not finding many fish at all. The peak was around mid-month when we were finding as many as 160 a day. By yesterday, we found just 17 fish and all of them were hybrids.”
Although the situation is slowly correcting itself, biologists are attempting to get some benefit from the fish kill by using the fish in a research project that was already under way by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The South Carolina scientists are studying characteristics of hybrids and would have needed to catch and kill a number of them anyway to remove their earbones, known as otoliths, for the research. “We’ve been giving them the fish we collect to help with those projects,” he said.
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