Dead fish found on Utah shoreline; experts say they're running out of cool water to survive



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

LOST CREEK RESERVOIR, Morgan County — Record-high temperatures this late in the summer and low water levels are killing some of the fish in Utah waters.

"We've been having some Kokanee salmon that have been popping up dead," said Chris Penne, aquatics biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Dozens of dead fish litter the shoreline at the Lost Creek Reservoir.

Penne works in northern Utah. He said that's where this is happening.

"In a normal year, they'd be able to ride this out," he said. "It's just been exceptionally warm, and the water levels have been lower than normal."

He said smaller bodies of water are heating up faster.

The fish lose oxygen and become stressed.

"With these temperatures, we're just running out of cool water for them," Penne said. "They're one of the most sensitive species when it comes to colder water."

He said the other trout in the water are fine.

He's not aware of any disease or growth issues affecting the fish, but he said he can't do much until spring.

"We just don't want to add further stress to the fish because the form of surveying we have to use to actually capture them in any quantity is to use nets, and pulling them up through this warm water isn't going to do them any favors."

The only way to stop the fish kills is a break in the extreme heat.

He said normally, the fish would be able to survive this. That's not the case during this drought.

"What we're seeing is definitely regrettable. I think what I would say is this is a healthy addition to the discussion we've been having about water in the state," Penne said. "Healthy fisheries need water, too."

Penne said Utah's fish population will recover from this, but the fish kills show how the drought can harm all species.

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Shelby Lofton

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