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Fish Kills May Result from Low Water in Backwaters of the Mississippi

Tammy Mutka Raw Images fish holes 1 FB.jpg
Tammy Mutka, Raw Images Art and Photography
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Tammy Mutka, Raw Images Art and Photography
View of "catfish holes" on the Mississippi River south of Lock and Dam 15

Low water levels on the Upper Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area may affect fish this winter and next year.

So far, studies by the Iowa DNR have not shown any harmful effects.

On a recent Mississippi River trip south of Lock and Dam 15, the Augustana Stewardship pontoon boat nearly ran aground in the Andalusia Slough. The low water is a result of the current drought. Boaters can also observe catfish holes along the banks which are usually hidden underwater.

Fisheries Biologist Andy Fowler works for the Iowa DNR at its Fairport Fish Hatchery.

Tammy Mutka Raw Images fish holes 2 FB.jpg
Tammy Mutka, Raw Images Art and Photography
/
Tammy Mutka, Raw Images Art and Photography
The low water level is obvious in this photo of the banks of the Mississippi River south of the Quad Cities.

Low water levels in the backwaters of the Mississippi can affect fish, especially in the winter. Fowler says how depends on the species. Some, such as catfish and walleye, stay in the main channel. But others look for places to rest in backwaters.

He says the low water could result in more fish kills.

Low water may also result in higher concentrations of chemicals and pollution. And the fisheries biologist says the longer they're retained in the river, the more algal blooms and bacteria flourish. That's bad for fish because they compete with fish for oxygen.

The most recent Iowa DNR study about the condition of Mississippi River fish shows they're doing well. Fowler and his colleagues will continue measuring and weighing fish next year. And in the spring, catfish lovers can hope that all the male catfish find plenty of holes to attract females to lay their eggs.

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