September 27, 2022 |
Work continues this week to remove the remains of the massive fish kill-off in Saratoga Lake. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department began the rotenone project began on September 19th. The kill-off came in response the illegal stocking of yellow perch in the lake sometime last year.
Rotenone is a naturally derived toxin that targets gill-breathing animals. Crews treated the entire lake with the chemical. State biologists determined that destroying all the fish in the lake was the only sure-way for WGFD to prevent the yellow perch from moving into the Upper North Platte River system and destroying valuable trout and habitat downstream.
How the fish got there in the first place is still under investigation.
Bobby Compton and his team from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department were on site Monday to see how effective the rotenone treatment had been. Compton, a regional fisheries supervisor, said the plan appears to have worked.
Photo of Saratoga Lake courtesy WGFD.
The intense smell of dead fish confirmed how successful the treatment was.
Wyoming Game and Fish employees are removing the carcasses from the lake. The wind helps by blowing the dead fish toward the beach, where they can be scooped up. Compton’s crew have dug holes around the area to put the fish in. He describes how the process works.
Starting this week, biologists will perform weekly tests with Rainbow Trout. The so-called “canary fish” are used to see if and when the toxin levels in the lake have subsided. Compton said if the trout live, then the rotenone is no longer active.
Saratoga Lake will remain closed until all of the rotenone is gone. Compton said the process should be finished in a few weeks. He added the beach area will be open soon.
Biologists will make sure there are no more live fish before they reconnect the lake to its source. Afterwards, WGFD will begin stocking the lake from the local hatchery. It won’t happen in time for this year’s Ice Fishing Derby. The town has already canceled the popular event. Compton said people are disappointed, but they understand why it had to be done.
The kill-off continues to have a big impact on the town. WGFD biologists are hopeful the lake will be back to normal by next summer.