ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s an ugly sight on the banks of the Cherry Creek Reservoir — dead fish are washing up on shore.

Fisherman Norm Saunders sent CBS4 some photos. He counted 126 dead fish and wondered what was causing the die-off.

Testing is still under way, but wildlife officials seem fairly certain it’s not unusual. In Colorado high summer temperatures can often kill fish in large numbers.

The species of fish is shad, and they’re dying by the hundreds.

“It’s understandable that people are concerned. It certainly looks unpleasant, but at the same time it’s kind of a natural process,” Jennifer Churchill with Colorado Parks & Wildlife said. “What we imagine is going on is a usual summer fish kill, which happens when there are really warm temperatures during the day.”

Churchill said the vegetation grows really healthy and eats up a lot of the oxygen in the water that the fish need to survive.

The shad die first.

“That’s the one that’s kind of the tester, or the canary in the coal mine, the litmus test for it all,” park visitor Greg McGuan said.

Wildlife officials say not much can be done to stop the shad kill, but it shouldn’t keep people away. The reservoir is safe and there are plenty of other species to fish.

The definitive cause of the shad kill could be announced on Thursday.


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