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October 27, 2012 09:55 PM

Summer Drought Could Lead To Winter Kill

Sioux Falls, SD

Ready or not, the change of seasons is sweeping across KELOLAND. The combination of this summer's drought and the upcoming winter could be dangerous for South Dakota's outdoor life.

"We went from high water conditions last year to now with this year's drought to low water conditions," Fisheries Biologist Dave Lucchesi said.

Lucchesi says the lower water levels this year increases the chance of what's known as winter kill. That's when low oxygen in the water suffocates and kills a massive amount of fish.

"If that snow comes early and stays for a long period of time, the longer it's on the ice the greater the chance of a winter kill," Lucchesi said.

And Lucchesi adds that lakes aren’t alone in this potential problem.  Rivers and creeks that are already running low could face the same problem this winter. But, there is hope. The likelihood of a winter kill is directly tied to the amount of snow we see.

"If we have a mild winter like we did last year, we'll be alright. The fish will make it through no problem," Lucchesi said.

And although the snow would help replenish the lakes and rivers, the potential for harm has many hoping for a dry winter.

Winter kills can be fairly common in South Dakota.  Game, Fish & Parks will typically restock a lake with fish following a bad winter. However, it can take several years for those fish to grow to the size desired by anglers.

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