Winter fish kills possible in small lakes and ponds

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) – As the weather warms up, lakes and ponds are thawing. Local fisherman Clinton Moore said the harsh winter may have spoiled some of the best fishing holes in Tippecanoe County.

“If I go up to a little pond or lake, or something, and see a bunch of fish floating or dead on the banks, I probably wouldn’t even waste my time,” said Moore.

It’s called a winter fish kill. It is caused when snow accumulates on top of frozen lakes and ponds. Indiana conservation officer Matt Tholen said it is all due to a lack of oxygen.

“The plants weren’t able to get the sunlight, so the decomposing plants that were in the bottom of the water will take away the oxygen. The fish need the oxygen in the water, and that’s what creates a fish kill — a lack of oxygen,” said Tholen.

Tholen said shallow, stocked ponds are impacted the most and bigger fish are affected first.

“What we’ll probably start seeing in the smaller bodies of water is probably the bass will start floating to the surface first,” said Tholen.

Owners of small ponds sometimes try to drill holes in the ice to get oxygen circulating, but Tholen said there’s not really much people can do to prevent a winter fish kill.

“This is natural. It does happen,” said Tholen.

Although a winter fish kill is natural, Tholen said if you see a fish kill it is best to notify your local Department of Natural Resources.

“If you do see a fish kill we would still like to know about it, because it could be the winter fish kill, but it might be something else that’s affecting these fish,” said Tholen.

As for Moore, he said a possible fish kill shouldn’t keep anyone from casting a line.

“It’s been a bitter winter. Everybody is just going to have to get out there and find out,” said Moore.

For information on how to contact the local Department of Natural Resources, click here. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language, off topic, or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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