Dead fish on Flotten Lake concern cabin owners

Flotten Lake cabin owner Terry Sled cruises the water near Bird Island en route to search for more evidence of dead fish. Sled and his neighbour, John Michael, regularly assist with the cleanup of dead cisco, which continue to wash ashore at both Flotten and Waterhen Lakes.

by Sabine Gibbins

Although low oxygen levels could be the culprit behind the death of hundreds of small fish on Flotten and Waterhen Lakes, a few area residents remain uncertain.

Take Flotten Lake cabin owner John Michael for example, who – along with his neighbour Terry Sled – has helped rake hundreds of dead cisco (lake herring) along the beach and into garbage bags.

“We filled five bags this morning,” Sled said late last week. “It’s a terrible smell. This is what we wake up to every morning.”

Sled tends to believe the cause of death to be low oxygen levels in the lake. Conservation officers and researchers have been testing the waters over the past number of years and have also come to this conclusion, but Michael isn’t too quick to agree.

In a recent letter to Ken Cheveldayoff, provincial minister of environment, Michael outlined his theory – the fish are dying because of the ever-increasing cormorant birds, a black bird which will dine on almost any type of fish.

“It could very well be the birds,” he said. “There are so many of them.”

Another potential cause, he said, could be man. Michael believes it’s imperative to restrict fishing at Flotten Lake for a number of years, so the lake can return to being a healthy body of water.

“Years ago, it used to be a good fishing lake,” he said. “Fishing is not the same as it used to be. I’m an aboriginal myself, and I’m aware of all the rights we have. I was speaking to one of the elders up in Turnor Lake and he said, after seeing a lot of the dead fish, it could be pollution.”

Whatever the reason may be, fisheries biologist Gord Sedgewick said the MOE is well aware of the issue and will continue to monitor it.

“We put an oxygen profile meter in the water, and there are definitely fish floating there, on top of the water,” he said. “Basically, what happens is there is a movement of these cisco in the spring and early summer from shallow to deep water, where there is very little oxygen. So, they die, and float to the top. That is what likely happened at Waterhen and Flotten Lakes.”

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