Arkansas Game & Fish is trying to figure out why 100,000 fish in Northwest Arkansas turned up dead. They were found along a 20-mile stretch between the Ozark Dam and Highway 109 Bridge in Franklin County.
The 20-mile stretch along the Arkansas River where an estimated 100,000 drum fish were found washed ashore and floating looks much different now.
Keith Stephens with Game and Fish explains, “We got a call last week from a tug boat operator that found the fish out on the river along the bank, in the river channel and we immediately dispatched somebody to the area to take a look.”
Investigators from local and state agencies took samples from the affected area. Stephens says fish kills occur every year, but the magnitude of this one is unusual, and disease could be the cause.
A pollutant would have affected cross species. Stephens says, “Ninety-nine percent of them were Drum, which is a bottom feeder. It’s not a game fish in Arkansas.”
Some fish collected were alive and visibly sick. They have been taken to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for testing.
The affected area was never closed and fishing is encouraged. “Right now it’s fine to fish. If you go out there you can still fish for bass and crappie, catfish, it will be fine. Obviously don’t’ eat the dead fish.”
As for clean up, nature is taking its course. “We’ll have raccoon and birds and things like that will take care of it so there is really no clean up, it’s really too big. It’s contained along the river channel.”
Officials expect to have an exact estimate on how many fish died by Monday. They will release the test results as soon as they get them.