Major, Bizarre Fish Die-Off Along Lakefront

CHICAGO (STMW) – A bizarre scene is evolving on the Chicago lakefront, with Canada geese and mallard ducks gulping down dead or dying gizzard shad.

A major die-off of what appears to be the 2010 class is happening in Chicago harbors. Thousands, perhaps far more than that, of dead gizzard shad in the 3- to 5-inch range are frozen in the ice of Chicago harbors or floating around in open patches of water.

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“Gizzard shad are pretty sensitive,’’ Lake Michigan Program biologist Dan Makauskas said. “On the toughness scale, the herrings are pretty soft.’’

Gizzard shad, members of the herring family, are more sensitive to drops in oxygen levels than most fish. And thick ice came early to Chicago harbors in December.

The massive die-off was first documented Thursday by Carl Vizzone, a North Side fisherman who sits on the board of Perch America. What caught his eye was Canada geese and mallards eating dying shad at open water by DuSable and Diversey harbors. “This is not normal,’’ he said.

He’s right, agreed naturalist Joel Greenberg, author of A Natural History of the Chicago Region. Canada geese and mallards normally don’t eat fish, but, Greenberg said, “They are opportunistic.”

Other species of fish do not appear to be involved in the die-off.

Makauskas, who speculated that the young shad may not have built up enough reserves to survive the early onslaught of extreme cold, agreed the die-off is abnormal.

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  • D

    Rahm’ back in town.

    • greyfox

      That was my immediate thought.

    • joanne

      my thoughts exactly

    • KeepinItREEL

      Three things at play here….not knowing what you don’t know, piggybacking on other recent die-off stories and playing on people’s fears.

      Shad. They are a southern fish. They’re not built for cold weather. At the norther edge of their range, many die in the winter. Happens EVERY year. By the thousands. EVERY year. Happens like this on the upper Mississippi River and in Green Bay. Its an annual phenomenon.

      While ice fishing, you’ll look down the hole and see them floating by. Come back tomorrow morning and yesterday’s holes will be packed full of dead shad.

      People, people, people……educate yourselves first!

      • Mike Brunette

        This is way normal, thousands of dead shad on Lake Michigan shores is not unusual. I took pictures of hundreds of thousands of these puppies along the shores of Green Bay in Kewaunee and Door countys when I worked in GB.

        I see them every year in varying amounts in Sheboygan were I live now.

        Experts, yeah.

      • Brandi

        Dumb question I’m sure, but if these fish are not meant to live in cold water, then why the heck are they in Lake Mich???

      • Smackinyoudown

        hmm thats odd the scientists all agree its abnormal. So I guess we’ll just believe you Mr. Forum warrior

      • KeepinItREEL

        Pretty easy to be a keyboard jockey with an opinion, takes only a tad more effort to learn a little bit about the topic instead of assuming some conspiracy or underlying cause.

        Let’s not try to tie these together. These fish die because their bodies cannot tolerate cold temps. A little like putting your neon tetras in your backyard birdbath today. Conversely it would be like trying to put a brook trout or a walleye in Lake Ponchartrain. They would live only as long as their physiology allowed, and then most of them would die off. Shad are prolific breeders, so the few that remain after these normal, annual die-offs, reproduce quickly.

        Threadfin and gizzard shad are by no means an indicator species. They are not canaries in a mine, and in no way do they represent anything even similar to that scenario. Don’t try to make it one.

        This is getting “air time” for the sole purpose of attempting to link it to the blackbird deaths as a localized story. This is a stretch, at best.

      • Luana

        And i guess it happens all the time with the birds around the globe too?

      • Johnnyvee

        Maybe the die-off of animals are unrelated….then again, maybe they are. how many canaries have to die in the coal mine before someone figures out there is something larger at work. Simply saying this happens all the time is not education, it’s sticking your head in the sand and saying that’s just the way it is as you go back to watching “Dancing With The Stars”

      • Cowboy

        But it is just too much work to bother with fact…

    • Dani Ultman

      Too funny and i’m from Pittsburgh

    • Contarian

      Damn… you beat me to it.

    • patrick

      perfect comment

  • stargirl

    gizzard shad are closely related to alewives. and alewives have washed up dead on chicago beaches many times in the past.
    maybe these are alewives, and the media is rying to sensationalize an ordinary event.

    • Cowboy

      Gizzard shad, which look much like alewives, are also common to the Great Lakes.

    • nevada trust

      maybe you’re in denial.

  • Doug Rose

    Nothing New here…..Move On……………….

  • Frank Thomas

    People that don’t think this is abnormal need to look at a map of this recent activity and wake up!!! Something is definitely wrong here…..

    • Chris

      Its normal. Seriously. I see this happen every damn year. EVERY YEAR. EVERY SINGLE STUPID YEAR. Its NOT abnormal. Its 100% NORMAL.

    • nevada trust

      only a minority of people are turning away from the obvious: life on the planet is having a very large problem.

  • sdb

    Rahm’s back in town.

  • Phil McCrackin

    Global warming………climate change at it’s finest.

  • now this is just gettting weird ... more dead animals

    […] 5-inch range are frozen in the ice of Chicago harbors or floating around in open patches of water. Major, Bizarre Fish Die-Off Along Lakefront CBS Chicago – Breaking News, Sports, Weather, Traf… "If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity […]

  • Granite Sentry

    That darn toxic political environment again?

  • sa wallick

    Now you made me smile.

  • SA wallick

    I’ve never seen so many fish together in one place, nor birds of the same kind for that matter. Someone is up to something. Why?

  • gram

    Bet they still get to vote (twice).

  • frank

    were they shot to death?

    • Morning Joe

      Your spot on …. we go to the beach with fishing rods, lures and worms while Rahm, Little Billy Ayers, Barack and Louis Farrahkan go there with guns!

      You solved the mystery … One Pulitzer Prize – Cuuuumin UP!

  • Sam

    vitriolic verbiage from the Right Wing is at the bottom of this. Surely Rush Limbuagh’s bombastic language caused massive trauma and a shift in the magnetic fields in the area causing a die-off among especially senstive species. Keep an eye out maladies among liberals as they especially sensitive….

    • Tim Weaver

      Conservatives are just so gosh darn witty it’s causing us liberal sissies to drop dead in mass numbers. Keep it up.

      • Morning Joe

        No Problem-o … at least you admit you need our help!

        We do what we can and pray for you each day … Be Well Tim Weaver

      • Bob

        It’s Liberals shooting their own congresswomen….

  • Bruce

    Rahm Emmanuel moves back to Chicago and dead fish appear? Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  • G Marks

    The world is experiencing radical climate changes… and it appears that certain species only thrive within specific environmental conditions.

    The conditions are changing – with wild ups and downs in temperature.

    Maybe it’s all about flexibility… remember in school they taught us that Cro Magnon man didn’t survive because he was isolated in a particular environment… whereas our ancestors were migrant.


      The world is not experiencing radical climate changes. The changes ALGORE wants you to believe show GLOBAL WARMING are nothing but “NORMAL” run of the mill changes seen over and over again throughout the millenia.
      There are NO “wild ups and downs in temperature” only the usual within historical limits shown in historical climate data.
      I knew CroMagnon man and the CroMagnon man I knew was NOT isolated in a particular environment, he was omnipresent.

  • rabbit

    …..Bush’s fault…

  • todd

    I believe it was blunt force trama – or perhaps fireworks killed off these fish…..

    • Mackaarina

      What excuse will they give when the fish start dropping out of the sky? Maybe that the fish jumped out of the water, wacked the birds, the birds wacked back and fell into the lakes then the fish fell out of the sky. Do we have STUPID written on our foreheads???

      • Dave-o

        Fish drop out of the sky?

      • Chris

        Apparently you do. This is normal

  • Hank Warren

    Even the fish hate ex-Israeli soldier Rahm. Seriously, endless pollution, yet another violation of our rights. Add it to the list of gov’t violations of our right:
    They violate the 1st Amendment by placing protesters in cages, banning books like “America Deceived II” and censoring the internet.
    They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns.
    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by molesting airline passengers.
    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars for foreign countries.
    Impeach Obama and sweep out the Congress, except Ron Paul.
    (Last link of Banned Book):

  • SockRayBlue

    I’ve seen fish wash up on the shores of Lake Michigan since I was a kid. Not too many humans though.

    • Doug Rose

      Living on the Lake here in Northern Indiana…………
      you see this all the time.
      Just Nature taking it’s course!

      Once in awhile ,we do see a Human washing up on Shore !

  • Collin L

    Gizzard shad die in huge numbers every spring in my hometown along the Wisconsin River, usually around the end of February. I always thought it had to do with spawning. They are a short-lived, insignificant, small fish. Their numbers bounce back easily.

  • Ratt

    It happened in the early seventies, when my father would take me fishing on Lake Michigan (near Michigan City Indiana). There were thousands upon thousands of small fish washed ashore, so many that we’d have to step over them to reach the shore. According to my dad, and the hundreds of locals nearby ….. it happened nearly every year and was nothing unusual at all.

    Now then, the other bird and fish die offs as of late are NOT normal.

  • joe P

    Picture this……

    Rahm sitting by the shore, surrounded by dead fish. A superimposed image of George Bush with a fishing rod in the background. He Slowly turns to the camera… a single tear rolls down his cheek…

    the camera pans up to a shining sun… then the words “i’m Rahm Emanuel and i approve this message”

    what do you think?

  • Robbie D

    The left wing psychos are responsible for this. Why not blame them for once since that s all they know how to do.

  • Robbie D

    Palin did it!!!!

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