State wildlife and environmental protection officials have finished counting the number of fish found dead along a three-mile stretch of the Rocky River.
Their tally totals 28,613 fish and other aquatic species such as crayfish and frogs, dead as a result of a still-unknown cause.
No terrestrial wildlife were found along the banks, which might have indicated they were poisoned by whatever caused the fish to die, Wildlife Division officials say.
The fish were discovered late Sunday by an angler who alerted the Ohio Division of Wildlife through that agency’s poacher-reporting hotline.
By Monday the scene along the three-mile stretch of the Rocky River - all of which flows through Cleveland Metroparks’ Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville - was one of state Wildlife Division officials along with their counterparts with Cleveland Metroparks and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency scouring the area for dead fish.
Their first task was to collect, preserve, count and identify the fish species. It is known that some of the dead fish were steelhead trout as well as possibly the bigmouth shiner, a state-listed threatened fish species, and smallmouth bass.
“The investigators aren’t going back to the stream today because they believe they have all the data that they need,” said Jamey Graham, spokeswoman for the Wildlife Division’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.
Broken down by species the preliminary-only totals are: crappie - 16; trout - 72; minnows (all sub-species) - 22,018; darters - 3,287; suckers - 3,962; crayfish - 61; frogs - 3; shad - 2; sunfish - 143; smallmouth bass - 49.
The reason for the separation of the fish by species is so that the Wildlife Division can determine how much to charge in fines and restitution.
Ohio has assigned a dollar figure for each fish species and which is used to determine how much an offending party must pay in the way of restitution.
“Plus, it might help us determine what caused the kill and where since some fish species are more sensitive to indicators than are other fish species,” Graham said.
That discovery process will be aided by the Ohio EPA with its team of investigators which will work to discover what caused the fish to die, where the offending agent originated from and ultimately who was responsible, has said Mike Settles, Ohio EPA spokesman.
This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn