News Local

Massive fish deaths a puzzle for officials

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

During a fishing trip early Monday morning, Lefroy resident John Hurd came back with a big one. But he wasn't about to sink his teeth into this 25-pound beast.

Hurd snagged one of the fish that is part of a massive carp die-off in Lake Simcoe that is making a big stink for shoreline residents and vacationers to Cook's Bay.

"I was down off De Grassi Point to fish for bass and I ran into three of them about 100 yards offshore. I thought it was a rock or something," he said yesterday.

He dragged the near-metre long fish behind his boat in the event the Ministry of Natural Resources or some other agency wanted to run tests on the carcass, prompting another nearby angler to ask him what his big catch was.

So far, the carp die-off is being monitored by the MNR in lakes Simcoe and Couchiching and is reaching up as far as Sparrow Lake near Washago.

Hurd, a member of the Barry Avenue Lot 50 Owners Association, had to deal with the smell of one of the carcasses that had washed up on the association's little beach over the weekend. Another one washed into Carson Creek.

Innisfil Mayor Brian Jackson encouraged residents to clean up their shoreline properties and take advantage of provisions put in place by the Simcoe County.

The county will pick up properly bagged fish on regular scheduled collection days.

"Our staff will have to monitor our waterfront parks and ensure they are tidy and safe for our residents and visitors," Jackson said said yesterday.

"It's not so much a health issue as an unpleasant situation for anyone using the waterfront," he added.

Despite the unpleasant prospect of running into a dead carp, the water is safe for recreational use, according to Jerry Capko, manager of the Safe Water Program with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

"We have a beach water monitoring program. We've had a fairly recent set of results, (but) nothing showing reason for concern," he said.

Health units in the area around Lake Scugog found the same thing last year he said. Thousands of carp were reported dead in that die-off, but there was no threat to human health. A bacteria known as columnaris was identified as contributing to the Lake Scugog die-off.

MNR spokesperson Deborah Styles

said the department has sent dead fish samples for testing, but are still waiting for the results.

"This is unusual," she said of the large scope of the die-off. "Until we hear from the University (of Guelph) we cannot confirm what's causing this."

The ministry, she said, will continue to monitor the extent of the die off as well as collecting live carp for examination as well.

Styles said ministry biologists have indicated they can't recall seeing a die-off of this extent in the area, although there have been periodic small scale die offs over the years.

When cleaning up dead fish, Capko said residents should use a shovel and wear gloves. There are also private companies who will remove the carcasses for a fee.

For now, the health unit will continue with its beach water monitoring and if results show significant changes, precautions will be taken.

At no time should people be drinking untreated water from the lake and Capko said residents whose water comes from the lakes is required to be treated by a municipal system.

To report fish die-offs, call the ministry hotline at 1-866-929-0994.

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