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Marina mystery: Vast Nevada fish die-off

– State wildlife officials are trying to figure out why all the fish have died in a northern Nevada marina where the stocked fishery has flourished since the man-made lake was created nearly 15 years ago.

An estimated 100,000 trout, bass and catfish have died over the past month in the Sparks Marina along Interstate 80 east of Reno, apparently the result of a dramatic, unexplained drop in dissolved oxygen levels, Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy said Wednesday.

Scientists say a bitter cold snap could have caused oxygen-poor waters to rise from the old rock quarry’s bottom to the surface, but they don’t understand what sparked the massive die-off.

Fish biologists confirmed low oxygen levels caused the death of an estimated 3,000 fish in one corner of the lake in mid-December, but Healy said they thought at the time that the event was localized and of limited effect.

Since then, authorities have been unable to detect any live fish in the 77-acre lake.

Numerous dead fish have been removed from the lake’s shoreline, and Healy said it’s likely the rest sank to the bottom.

“The 100,000 dead fish figure is something that is probably a pretty conservative guess,” said Healy, who estimates they’ve stocked close to 1 million adult fish in the lake since they started in 1998.

“We don’t know if any small fish have survived, but for all intents and purposes, the fishery doesn’t exist anymore,” he told The Associated Press.

Sparks city spokesman Adam Mayberry emphasized there’s no health or safety threat at the marina. He said the water typically is of good quality and no similar problems have occurred before.

“Even with the biological anomaly we are seeing, it’s still a very safe body of water,” he said. “You just can’t fish in the marina right now because there aren’t any fish there, and we are trying to figure out why.”

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