WORTHINGTON — High winds over the weekend resulted in mass amounts of dead fish coming to the surface and floating to the shoreline on Lake Ocheda’s three basins south of Worthington.
A massive fish kill was the hope of the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, which organized a wintertime drawdown of the 1,700-acre lake in hopes of freezing out the basins.
The lake has been on the state’s impaired waters list since 2010 due to poor water quality. It’s believed an extremely high population of carp in the basins stirred up sediment and impacted the ability for vegetative growth in the lake.
On Monday, OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl photographed hordes of dead fish along a 1,200-foot stretch of shoreline near the Al and Paul Langseth property on the lake’s east basin. The strip of dead fish was about 20 feet wide, he noted. Dead fish had also floated toward shore on portions of the west basin.
Livdahl said most of the large fish appeared to be buffalo, with numerous carp, catfish, bullhead and freshwater drum (sheepshead) also dead. He also noted a few dead walleyes and a lot of dead frogs.
“We did not see any perch or northern pike,” he added. “I think fish are just beginning to warm up and rot enough that they are starting to float. We’re not seeing a lot of carp, which is surprising.”
Al Langseth, who was on the east basin with Livdahl, estimated they saw five to 10 dead buffalo fish for every dead carp.
While Livdahl said he was happy to find dead fish, there’s no way of knowing the extent of the fish kill until water clarity can be measured later this spring. It’s certain it wasn’t a complete kill, as fish have been seen splashing around in the east and west basins.
“I’m hopeful that we’ve had a significant enough kill to improve water quality,” Livdahl said, adding that until the cold spurt in mid-February, he was concerned there was too much oxygen and not enough ice to freeze out the fish.
“Over the whole winter, we got a maximum of 22 inches of ice and that’s less than a normal winter,” he shared. “If we had a couple more weeks of cold weather, we may have been able to freeze it all out.”
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is planning to stock Lake Ocheda this spring with northern pike and perch — two gamefish species known for feasting on carp eggs and helping to control carp populations.