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Gizzard Shad Die Off

Gizzard Shad Die Off from Saginaw Bay to Lake Erie

Hate to be a bearer of bad news, but the latest news for Michigan is another fish die off. The main species of fish this time is gizzard shad, a bait fish for larger fish.


If you remember back in 2003, 2005, and 2006 there was a major die off of fish, including muskellunge, smallmouth bass and yellow perch. Many scientists attributed the deaths to VHS, Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, often referred to as the fish Ebola virus.

This time around, they are not quite sure what the die off could be from, but they are assuming another bad case of VHS. I on the other hand think a lot of these die offs are due to pollution.

I mean last summer there was a major oil spill in the Kalamazoo river, 800,000 gallons of oil poured into the river. Now that can’t be good, the cause of this is infrastructure problems. These pipe lines are getting old and cracking.

So could this be the same case throughout other areas of Michigan? I know a lot of these scientists don’t like to suspect pollution first because we all live in this naive world that everything is fine and there’s no pollution.


Anyways, scientists say it’s normal each year for shad to die in extreme cold conditions.

But this year’s crop of gizzard shad, a herring-like species that is the main source of food for largemouth bass is larger than normal, leading to more deaths.

Several industrial facilities in the affected areas have had their intake pipes clogged with dead fish already this winter.

But with the large number of gizzard shad in the waters along eastern Michigan’s coastline this year, it is difficult to determine how many of the deaths VHS is responsible for.

With ice and snow covering much of the visible portions of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River down to Lake Erie, the fish die-off is unlikely to impact most Michigan residents during the cold season.

That could change once the weather warms up and the ice melts.