The putrid smell of decomposing fish is overwhelming near the shores of Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo, as hundreds of carp die in the rapidly disappearing lake.
The carcasses can be seen scattered along the shores, floating in the water and lying near the silt islands that have appeared in the lake’s center.
City biologist Freddy Otte said the fish die-off is likely because of decreased oxygen levels in the lake. A similar phenomenon happened at Atascadero Lake as it went dry, another victim of California’s extended drought.
City biologist Freddy Otte said the fish die-off is likely because of decreased oxygen levels in the lake. A similar phenomenon happened last fall at Atascadero Lake as it went dry, another victim of California’s extended drought.
Phil Adams, a Cambria resident who frequents Laguna Lake as part of a model yacht club, said he was stunned by the lake’s condition.
“When we first got there yesterday, there were a bunch of turkey vultures, and I thought, what in the world is going on?” Adams said. “Then I walked to the edge of the water, and it was just covered in dead fish. It was pretty gruesome.”
The carp is an invasive species that Otte said is like a common goldfish. Those dead on the shore probably ranged from 5 to 10 years old, he said.
City administrators will meet Thursday to discuss the fish die-off and determine whether any cleanup measures need to be put in place, said Michael Codron, assistant city manager.
Codron said no complaints had been received about the smell so far.
“At this point, it is a natural process, and there are going to be scavenger birds, raccoons and opossums that will seize the opportunity,” Otte said. “We are going to let that process play out unless it gets to a nuisance level. Then we would move quickly to do a cleanup.”
Because the fish are invasive and a detriment to steelhead trout in nearby creeks, Otte said a plan will not be put in place to rescue the fish.
“As bad as this is, there is a benefit because we are not going to have as many getting out into the water where we are trying to protect the steelhead,” Otte said.
More fish will continue to die off if similar weather conditions continue, he said.
The lake has suffered from excess silt buildup over the past 40 years. Because of that, coupled with the current drought, a large portion of the lake is now dry.
In July, the San Luis Obispo City Council adopted a 10-year conservation plan to manage the 344-acre reserve where the lake is situated. But that plan will cost more than $10 million to implement.
Paul Bonjour, who lives near the lake, implored the council at its meeting Tuesday to put the plan into action now.
“It is a disgrace,” Bonjour said, adding that the shore is also littered with garbage. “I hope you are shamed and embarrassed about this. If you aren’t ashamed, then I consider you true politicians that don’t get shamed by anything.”