Mystery surrounds thousands of dead fish in Verdigris River


    Mystery surrounds thousands of dead fish in Verdigris River (KTUL)

    No one seems to know just how thousands of fish died, but it's got residents and wildlife officials guessing.

    Steven McKee grew up around this part of the Verdigris River near Nowata.

    "We've done a lot of fishing here, ever since I was a kid," said McKee.

    He's never seen anything like this.

    "We thought we could smell it, then we were looking around up the river here, and you could see the dead fish just coming up the river," said McKee.

    Something just isn't right. There are dead fish just about wherever you look.

    "It's worrisome," said McKee. "There's something in the water that's killing the fish."

    A mystery Josh Johnston with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and his team are determined to solve. They spent hours on the river Friday trying to figure this all out.

    "We started in the lake, came up the river. So, we're in the Verdigris River now," said Johnston.

    They're identifying and counting the number of dead fish.

    "Big Mouth and Small Mouth Buffalo, we've seen a lot of Grass Carp, we've seen Fresh Water Drum," said Johnston. "Our estimate so far is about 5,000 fish."

    As to how they died, "It's hard to know right away," said Johnston, but he can offer an educated guess.

    And it started miles upstream, with the heavy rains in Kansas earlier this week.

    "DEQ did get a report that there was a power failure at two water treatment plants in Kansas," said Johnston.

    Johnston said that power failure could have caused toxins to enter the water, but until they know for sure, the mystery of the dead fish will remain unanswered.

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