Fish Die-Off at Lake DeGray Reported

June 23, 2004

ARKADELPHIA - Several dead fish have been found on Lake DeGray in southwest Arkansas. The vast majority of the dead fish are five-inch bluegill and have been found from the Iron Mountain to the Alpine Ridge areas of the lake.

Lake DeGray Blue Gill die offAt this point in the investigation, fire ants may be the culprit. While several coves had numerous dead bluegill, it appears the die-off is relatively light, AGFC biologist Brett Hobbs said. “This is not a catastrophic event. We did observe other bluegill in these areas and around the Iron Mountain Marina which were in no distress,” he said.

Hobbs said that a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist examined some of the dead fish. “He said that he had analyzed five specimens collected from the lower lake near Highway 7 and all of them had bellies packed full of fire ants,” Hobbs explained. High water and run off from recent heavy rains may have floated the ants out onto the water.

The small fish die-off has apparently not affected the fishing on Lake DeGray, Hobbs said. “I have already had reports of bluegill anglers having successful fishing trips in some of the areas where dead fish were seen,” he said.

Biologists and wildlife officers from the AGFC first began seeing dead fish on June 20. “Dead bluegill sunfish, with a few longears, were found floating in the shallows. The greatest numbers of dead bluegills were in areas adjacent to spawning habitat,” Hobbs said. Most of the fish appeared to be dead for two to three days.

Local AGFC fisheries biologists out of Hot Springs are planning routine fish population samples on the lake this summer. At that time, the biologists will be able to assess the overall bream numbers to compare them to the previous year’s of sampling. Hobbs urged anglers to call the AGFC office in Hot Springs if any large numbers of dead fish are seen on the lake.

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