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Winter Fish Kills Take Toll

Tuma Lake opening delayed indefinitely.

It’s hidden below the surface, but proof of last winter’s bitter weather is still on display in a handful of Forest Preserve lakes and ponds.

Our fisheries staff is reporting that larger than normal “winter fish kills” have reduced fish populations at Tampier Lake, Belly Deep Slough, Potawatomi Pond and Saganashkee Slough; while populations at Bullfrog Lake, Sag Quarry East and Tuma Lake took the biggest hits from the harsh winter.

As we noted in February’s Forest Way, heavy snow cover and thick ice can prevent aquatic plants from getting the sunlight they need to produce oxygen. When weather conditions become more severe, as they did last winter, these low-oxygen environments can lead to the suffocation deaths of even healthy fish.

Fish kills are a natural phenomenon, but after larger events our fisheries staff actively helps these lakes and ponds stabilize. “Each year we work with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to stock game fish to help these populations recover,” said Forest Preserves Fisheries Biologist Steve Silic. Practicing catch-and-release in the affected lakes and ponds is one way the public can help renew these resources, Silic added.

Most lakes and ponds will bounce back with little or no intervention, but Tuma Lake will need extra attention. Rebuilt in 2008, the Palos area lake has been stocked and monitored over the past three and a half years to help establish a sustainable fishery population.

This winter’s impact has delayed the opening of Tuma Lake indefinitely, but Silic is confident that with some hard work it won’t be too much longer before Cook County residents have another tranquil place to cast their lines. In the meantime, anglers can view our full list of fishing locations, many of which fared much better through the harsh winter.

For the latest information on closures and construction in the Forest Preserves, visit our Closures & Alerts Page.