Thousands of fish found dead on South Dakota shores - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Thousands of fish found dead on South Dakota shores

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For many anglers across South Dakota, this time of year is perfect to go out, cast a line and catch some fish.

But many fishermen on the James River near the North Dakota border are now concerned; after dead fish have been found along the shores of the river.

For as far as the eye can see, dead fish are scattered along the banks of the James River near the North Dakota border.

Sportsmen like Tink Sullivan have been fishing off the banks of the James River near Hecla for decades.

"I've never seen fish dead like this," Sullivan said.

With summer now upon us warm weather and water shortages are underway; which could translate into water restrictions upstream and less water flowing downstream.

"We wish we could have saved them, but I don't know the answers to how we could have, but, it's kind of a crying shame," Sullivan said.

He says the water levels here along the James River have continued to decline rapidly, which he believes could be the culprit.

"From that culvert over there, it's probably dropped ten feet or better," Sullivan said.

According to Regional Fishery Manager Mark Ermer with the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department; hot weather and a lack of flow in the James River has caused oxygen levels in the water to become stagnant, killing countless fish.

All of the water releases into the James River in South Dakota are controlled by a dam in Jamestown, North Dakota.

Sullivan says releases from the dam have been very inconsistent.

"I hope we can get a little bit of water to get the fish back, but, we don't need the water like we've had in the past years," Sullivan said.

Sullivan says until more water is released into the James River, he expects the fish will continue to die.

KSFY did reach out to the Army Corp of Engineers in Jamestown, ND to see why there haven't been more releases, we received no comment.

Dead fish have also been seen in many lakes in the northeastern part of the state.  

On Lake Norden thousands of carp, walleye and northern pike have been found on the shoreline.

Ermer says fish dying out is a normal, but that these larger numbers of die-off are a result of low oxygen levels in the water.

He says high temperatures and algae growth cause the levels to become stagnant.

Ermer says die-off is common during the summer months.

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