Recent fish kill should not concern anglers this holiday weekend

Thousands of dead fish washed ashore in Harrison County, Hancock County, and Cat Island Monday morning.
Thousands of dead fish washed ashore in Harrison County, Hancock County, and Cat Island Monday morning.

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The recent fish kill along the immediate beachfront of South Mississippi has been described as a freak of nature and a version of The Perfect Storm. In the end, the kill should not hurt fishing during the July 4th Weekend.

The kill, which occurred Monday and Tuesday, had a direct impact on bottom dwelling fish such as white trout, ground mullet and shrimp. The dissolved oxygen levels dropped from a normal rate of more than three to less than zero in parts off Long Beach, Gulfport and Biloxi. Toss in a red algae bloom three miles off the beaches, stretching from the Gulfport Ship Channel to the waters south of the Beau Rivage Casino, and nighttime surface temperatures dropping with a cool front, the species impacted faced two potential deadly natural cycles.

That was a direct result in the fish kill, which, according to Matt Hill of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi, is common. But not both at the same time.

''A bloom is different from a dissolved oxygen event,'' Hill said. ''I don't like to call it a red tide because that makes people think it's toxic and it's non-toxic. The DO (dissolved oxygen) was right along the shoreline. The water was stagnant, just like a pond.''

The jubilee was due to low DO. It was like the algae bloom and the low dissolved oxygen levels were feeding off one another. The bloom did not cause the fish to die. The fish happened to swim north of the algae bloom and into the shallow water. The conditions were perfect. We were going to have a fish kill without the bloom. But the bloom added to it. It was like The Perfect Storm.

So how healthy are the fish in the Mississippi Sound heading into the holiday weekend?

"There is nothing wrong with the fish in the Mississippi Sound,'' Hill said. ''People who find fish should eat them as long as they are not spoiled. Keep in mind that you must follow all rules and regulations if you pick certain fish up.''

"The fish tried to get out of the algae and they swam to the shore and right into the jubilee event. But the strong swimmers, like speckled trout and redfish, will not get caught up in there and they will be fine. If we don't have the north wind with the cool front, we probably don't have this (pushed low DO levels south). We did lose some fish because this is a natural event. We just happened to have them both at the same time. The fish are fine."

A couple top fishing spot for the weekend includes the barrier islands of Cat, Ship, Horn and Petit Bois, which were not impacted by the fish kill as well as the bay waters. With a wind shift and rainfall for the rest of the week, Hill expects fishing along the immediate beachfront to improve for the weekend, too.

''I tell people to go fishing,'' he said. ''The same thing, although not as bad, happened last year during the week after the 4th of July. Enjoy the weekend and go fishing.''

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