Homeowner Jeff Bradley and his two children first saw the fish last Saturday. When they returned again on Sunday morning, the fish were still there, so Bradley suggested to his kids that they count the fish just to see how many there really were.
“Seventy-two. There were a total of 72 dead fish,” said Bradley. “They were not chewed, they were fully grown with no sign of disease and they were belly up, floating in the water. It was pretty amazing – so was the smell.”
Discovery Bay Town Manager Virgil Koehne said that Veolia Water – the town’s sewer and water contractor – notified him on Monday after another resident contacted the water company about the fish and their odor.
Koehne went out to Lakeshore on Monday afternoon and said he spotted just four fish. “It wasn’t 72, but there were some there,” he said. “Naturally, as soon as I heard about it, I asked (Veolia) if there were any sewer backups, and the answer was no,” said Koehne. “I have noticed that one of the large fountains at Lakeshore has been inoperative for the past few weeks. Whether that may have caused some of the fish to die, I’m not really sure.”
Sheri Benner, spokesperson for HBM, the management company that oversees the maintenance of the non-contact lake, said the fountains had nothing to do with the demise of the fish. What most likely happened instead was simply natural selection.
“I’ve been told by our guys who went out there to check on the situation that there was nothing wrong with the water in the fountain that would cause the fish deaths,” said Benner. “What I’m being told is that this happens about once a year out there, that the fish contract some illness during the winter and then by spring start to die off. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the water. It is, of course, being tested just to be sure, and we expect to have a report within the next 10 days or so.”
Janet Castonguay, president of the Lakeshore homeowners association, confirmed that there were indeed some floating fish. But as to how many there actually were and where they could have gone, she has no idea.
“I don’t know many were out there,” she said. “But HBM says there is no danger to the public or anything to worry about. I don’t know what happened to cause that.”
Robert Vincik, an environmental scientist with the Department of Fish and Game, believes he might have the answer. “We do see things like this happen occasionally, although 72 is a lot of fish,” said Vincik. “We had a case not too long ago where there were dozens of fish that turned up dead. Sometimes it is illness, and things like a change in weather or water temperature can do that, especially with catfish and carp. They (catfish) are also spawning at this time of the year, which accounts for the large numbers, and that’s a strain on their systems, too. Of course, chemicals in the water could also be a cause. It could just be a combination of things.”
Perhaps, agreed Bradley. But either way, he said he would have appreciated a return phone call from Castonguay: “I have never received a phone call or response to my questions, and that bothers me. I moved into a gated community because it is safe for my kids and safe for me, I thought. I wasn’t the only one who saw (the dead fish). There were neighbors there who saw the same thing. It would just be nice to know what happened (to cause their deaths) and where they all went. That’s a lot fish to just disappear.”
For now, what happened to the fish and where they went remains a mystery, although Vincik did say it was possible that some of the fish were eaten by scavengers or that some could have sunk to the bottom of the lake.
But, he added, a repeat performance of that magnitude might be cause for concern: “I would say this is probably an isolated incident, but if it happens again, certainly someone could call us and we would come out and test the water, and the fish, to try to determine the cause. It’s certainly something to watch out for.”