Oklahoma’s big freeze could lead to dead fish across the state

Mike Seals - February 21, 2021 9:51 pm

By Christine Stanwood

Found in most Oklahoma reservoirs, the small subtropical fish called a threadfin shad is dying off.

The most popular baitfish species has been affected by the state’s recent extreme-cold weather.

“They start to stress out. They’ll start to die when the water temperature gets below 41,” said Micah Holmes, with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “So, with this unprecedented cold snap, unfortunately, we’re going to see some die-outs and some, maybe, widespread die-outs of threadfin shad.”

And the problem is that other larger game fish eat the threadfin shad.

“As we experience a shad die off, unfortunately, the food resources for the bigger, more popular fish will be very limited,” Holmes said.

A drawing from a Department of Wildlife fishing guide shows that the fish can’t handle an extended period of cold weather. So, biologists are monitoring closely.

If you see a large die-off of shad floating in lakes, contact the Oklahoma Wildlife Department.

According to department officials, the good news is that some shad will have found thermal refuge and will survive to repopulate the reservoirs in the coming years.


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