WASATCH COUNTY — The recent rain has cooled down water temperatures at Strawberry Reservoir, but the heat had already done damage by killing 600 fish in the past week.
Division of Wildlife Resources biologist Alan Ward said that the fish are dying because the low water levels are killing the aquatic vegetation, and that combined with the heat is lowering the oxygen levels.
He said he has seen similar situations over the year where the heat directly affects the wildlife.
"We want to come out and monitor what's going on," Ward said. "The oxygen levels just get enough that these fish can't survive anymore."
Ward and other DWR employees are continuing to monitor the water situation, and Ward said he hopes that dead fish don't continue showing up throughout Strawberry.
"Fortunately for us, it's just in one small localized area," Ward said.
Water typically flows through a connector tunnel system called the "Ladders section" of Strawberry Reservoir, but Ward said that due to the low water levels and heat, the water flow isn't very strong. Anglers will notice hundreds of dead fish along the rocky shore line in the Ladders Section of Strawberry.
"As long as we have really hot temperatures, 90's and 100's, it's going to be more of a pronounced effect," Ward said. "We're going to see more of it happen."
As long as we have really hot temperatures, 90's and 100's, it's going to be more of a pronounced effect. We're going to see more of it happen.
–Alan Ward, Division of Wildlife Resources biologist
However, the fish that have died aren't the type of fish that people typically like to catch. Mot of the dead fish are sucker fish that came to the Strawberry Reservoir channel to spawn. The sucker fish died when they got caught in low water conditions.
"Most of the fish people are concerned with and want to come up here and catch out there on the reservoir," Ward said. "We're still doing well."
Ward has worked at Strawberry Reservoir for the past 13 years, and he said this year has had one of the lowest water levels he has ever seen.
"We just don't have much runoff left this year," he said. "We didn't have a good snowpack last year."
Strawberry Reservoir is currently about 79 percent full which isn't nearly as low as other reservoirs, but it was completely full in 2011.
"2011 was a great year," Ward said. "We topped Strawberry off that year. We had a really good runoff, and so 2011 was a great year. But the last two years, we've been pretty strong into this drought cycle where we're well below average."
Ward said that as the water levels continue to decrease, the problems will the fish and other wildlife will increase.