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No major fish kills in northeast Illinois

The south shoreline Braidwood Lake which reached 108 degrees last weekend remained free from dead fish (after minor fish kill)

The south shoreline of Braidwood Lake, which reached 108 degrees last weekend, remained free from dead fish (after a minor fish kill) and fishermen alike Tuesday. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 12, 2012 6:31AM

Northeast Illinois appears to have survived without major fish kills, despite the extended shot of record heat and extremely low water.

‘‘I think we skipped the bullet,’’ Mark Meents said Monday.

Meents, the site superintendent for Mazonia/Braidwood State Fish and Wildlife Area, said there were some dead floaters at Braidwood, the cooling lake in the southwest corner of Will County, but nothing major. It was mainly threadfin and gizzard shad. On Monday, there was still 100-degree water on the south end.

The most significant kill appears to have been on the Fox River, which is near record-low levels.

On Monday, district fisheries biologist Rob Miller and streams biologist Bob Rung surveyed the kill from Aurora downstream to Silver Springs SFWA below Yorkville.

‘‘Dead fish were fairly prevalent in the Aurora area but diminished as we went downstream,’’ Miller emailed. ‘‘Most of what we observed were redhorse, but we also saw a few walleyes and one muskie. Did not see a single common carp. This situation is also taking its toll on the mussel population.’’

‘‘1988 was also low on the Fox, but we might be eclipsing that,’’ streams biologist Steve Pescitelli said.

A lot of us expected a major kill at LaSalle Lake, the cooling lake south of Seneca, but it appears to have been relatively minor.

District fisheries biologist Ken Clodfelter said there were no huge numbers of dead fish at LaSalle, mainly smaller blue catfish and hybrid striped bass with a few smallmouth bass, smallmouth buffalo and shad. By Tuesday, the cool side was down to 90 degrees, close to the temperature of natural ponds.

‘‘In the northern couple of counties, there have been some muskie and northern-pike deaths due to the heat,’’ district fisheries biologist Frank Jakubicek emailed. ‘‘Fish have a ‘thermal maximum,’ in which they need relief or begin to succumb from heat stress. Lakes that are relatively shallow and don’t establish a thermocline are more susceptible than deeper lakes.’’

Mark Marlowe observed four dead muskies on the Des Plaines River. Pescitelli speculated they were escapees from the stocking at Busse Lake.

It could have been far worse.

‘‘We had sunny weather and wind, so it has not been as bad as it could have been,’’ Clodfelter said. ‘‘Some of the ponds are down
3 feet, and they are dealing with it.’’

He said the sunny days helped with aquatic plants being able to build dissolved-oxygen levels during the day. The problem with hot-weather fish kills is that they almost always are related to low dissolved-oxygen levels and not simply the hot water.

Considering our low waters continue dropping, I expect fish kills to be a potential ongoing issue this summer. With that in mind, Clodfelter had suggestions. The key is to check at sunrise, when dissolved oxygen is at its lowest.

‘‘If [fish] are in distress, they will be piping up on the surface,’’ Clodfelter said. ‘‘[Piping means it] almost looks like they are feeding, but they won’t go down.’’

If you see fish piping on the surface at dawn, Clodfelter said to clap your hands. If they don’t go down, the waters likely have a dissolved-oxygen issue.

Places and faces

Kids’ Fest, a cooperative effort of Fishin’ Buddies Inc. and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, runs from 10 a.m. to
4 p.m. Saturday at Wampum Lake in Lansing. It’s a camping, boating and fishing expo with a lot of stuff for kids in a big setting. It’s free, but register at

Springfield spritz

We hear Illinois Department of Natural Resources director Marc Miller will hold a Lake Michigan meeting — probably this fall — to talk with perch fishermen. It’s about time.

Stray cast

If Bryan LaHair can make the All-Star Game, anybody can catch the Illinois-record smallmouth bass.

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