MATTOON — Reports of fish dying in Lake Mattoon have drawn a response from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Agency spokesman Chris Young said the fish kill seems to be caused by a virus specific to carp.
Department staff visited the lake after fishermen reported seeing dead carp, starting around Memorial Day. Dead fish could still be noticed Thursday afternoon along the shoreline.
Lake Supervisor Joel Pittman said it's the biggest fish kill he's seen in his 20 years working at the lake.
Pittman said the fish kill seems to have run its course. Most of the dead carp he's found recently appear to have died several days ago.
Pittman said his crew has removed some of the dead carp from public recreation areas and moved the carcasses into city woodland to decompose there. He said they do not have the resources to collect all of the dead carp, but the carcasses should completely decompose in coming days.
Lake Mattoon resident Frank Jarvis said he has found several dead carp every day recently at his dock and has seen, and smelled, approximately 30 carcasses in a nearby cove. He said all of the dead fish he has encountered have been carp.
"They are all over the lake. Wherever you go, you see fish laying on the shores," Jarvis said, adding that he has not seen a fish kill this large before at the lake.
Lake Mattoon resident Jim Campione said he has seen fish kills involving carp at the lake over the years, particularly at this time of year, when they are spawning. Campione said he is thankful that the current fish kill seems to only be affecting carp and no bass, crappie and other game fish.
Campione was out fishing Thursday afternoon at the Lake Mattoon Marina, not far from floating carp carcases.
"When the wind comes up, you can smell it. I wonder when it gets hot what will happen," he said.
Doug Burtcheard of Mattoon also was fishing at the marina. He said he has spent many years fishing and chumming along the Gulf Coast, so the odor of the dead carp does not bother him.
Burtcheard said the fish kill does not seem to be affecting other fish in Lake Mattoon, adding that he has caught crappie, walleye and more recently.
"The fish are still biting," Burtcheard said.