EFFINGHAM — As winter storms choked roadways and kept residents indoors, aquatic life throughout the area were stuck under a sheet of ice, one often covered in snow. With ponds frozen over, many fish suffered through the cold, only to be discovered recently as the ground began to thaw.
That was the case for Stan Jansen of Edgewood who walked out to his pond a couple of weeks ago to find nearly 600 fish dead, floating under the surface and washed up against the muddy shores.
"I went there after it was all gone and there were dead fish along the shore pretty well all the way around," he said. "There were sometimes four or five of them within a foot of each other."
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources refers to these conditions as a fish kill, a situation in which fish, trapped behind a sheet of ice covering a shallow pond, slowly asphyxiate as sunlight cannot reach the underwater plants, which stops them from conducting photosynthesis and producing oxygen.
The fish kill was above average this year throughout the area, generally hitting ponds on residences.
"Those smaller shallower ponds are the ones that are hit first," said Bart Pals, direct conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Center in Newton. "It was pretty widespread. It certainly had an impact here."
While the fish kill primarily hits smaller, shallower bodies of water, some effects can be felt in larger lakes as well. Lake Sara Superintendent Mike Dirks said some dead fish were found on the banks of the lake but he was expecting more after the harsh conditions this past winter.
"There hasn't been a whole lot. I've seen a few dead fish here and there" he said. "I was kind of expecting some, but I was kind of surprised. We definitely had some ice this year though."
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or at email@example.com or via Twitter @EDNJAdams.