More and more fish are turning up dead in a popular central Wisconsin fishing spot. This is happening at the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir outside Mosinee. All the dead fish are causing quite a smell for neighbors and businesses
"I've never seen it like that before."
Debbie Hotchkiss describes the scene near her bar on the Big Eau Pleine.
"We've seen thousands of fish out there dead on top of the ice," said Hotchkiss. "We had anglers out there. They were ice fishing purposely for the carp and everywhere they would drill a hole, they would bring up dead carp."
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources first noticed a problem with the reservoir in January. They say low oxygen levels during the winter caused fish to die.
Fish kills are not uncommon to the area. Officials say in 2009, 60% to 70% of the population in the Big Eau Pleine died.
"We might be looking at, you know, at least what we saw in 2009," said Tom Meronek, DNR Fish Biologist."There's just less fish out there now, so numbers wise it may not be as many, but percentage wise it may be as bad."
Hotchkiss says the foul smell hasn't driven the customers from enjoying their Friday night fish fry. But don't worry, they use different fish.
"Oh we joke about that how I fight the eagles off to get my fish, but it's just a joke."
But Hotckiss says what could happen to her business in the summer is no laughing matter. Fewer fish in the lake, mean fewer campers and anglers to stop at her bar.
"Summer to us is boaters and fishermen, just like the winter is to us the snowmobilers" said Hotchkiss. "So it's a big part of our business."
Biologists say it could take years for the fish population to bounce back. It's too soon to know how many fish may have died. Officials say they'll have a better idea once all the snow and ice melt.