Algae bloom killed 95 percent of fish at Lake Van last week

DEXTER — Hundreds of fish are dying at a New Mexico lake, and now, people who have caught some of those fish are wondering if they could get sick, or even die. Rotting fish are everywhere at Lake Van in Dexter.

“The more I look, there’s thousands and thousands of fish just floating to the top, and now the stench is getting really bad; there’s flies everywhere,” said Colleen Cole-Velasquez.

Velasquez lives on the lake.  She says the smell from the rotting fish is getting into her home.

“When the smell crosses the road over to your property, that’s not exactly what you want to smell when you’re getting ready for dinner,” said Cole-Velasquez.

Walk up to any bank on the lake outside of Roswell and you will see dozens of dead fish.

“People should be worried,” said Game and Fish Biologist Shawn Denny. “When you see something dying in your environment, that should set off an alarm bell for you.”

Denny says the reason for the die-off is a microscopic plankton called golden algae. Denny says since last Monday, the algae have wiped out 95 percent of the fish in the lake.

Now there’s a whole lot of rotting fish, flies and questions.

“You see a lot of fish floating to the top, and of course it makes you concerned living on the lake,” said Cole-Velasquez. “Is this something that could harm me? Is this something that could harm our pets?”

Game and Fish says yes, and that you should avoid sick fish.

“We tell people, ‘do not pick up any sick or dying fish and eat them, period,'” said Denny.

But Cole-Velasquez says he wonders how you know if they’re sick and why there aren’t any signs.

“How do you know if a fish is sick? It’s not going to cough at you, you know. You can’t take its temperature,” said Cole-Velasquez.

The lake is still open to the public, but Game and Fish says to use caution until this algae is gone.

“We do ask people if you are going to fish in this lake, if you’re going to boat in this lake, to clean all of your equipment,” said Denny. “Let it dry out significantly before you go to another water body.”

The last golden algae kill was in 2010. Game and Fish says it will re-stock the lake when the bloom is over.

 

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