Thousands of dead fish washed up on the shores of a central Alberta lake after an abnormally long winter.
“Crimson Lake has a history of ‘winter kill’ as a result of the shallow depth of the lake,” said Matt Dykstra, spokesman for Alberta Environment and Parks.
The natural phenomenon occurs due to low oxygen levels in frozen lakes and ponds.
A long winter combined with the shallow water meant “the oxygen in the lake was depleted before the stores could start to replenish,” Dykstra said in an email Monday.
The lake, located about 17 km northwest of Rocky Mountain House, is home to cottages, a campground and multi-use trails. It’s also a spot for birdwatching and home to several species including sandhill cranes, northern Pygmy owls and solitary sandpipers.
In 2014, government specialists reported that a fish die-off was underway at a lake about 95 kilometres west of Edmonton.
Thousands of sucker fish stayed at the surface of Isle Lake during the March snow melt, gasping for air. Walleye and pike had died off in previous years under similar circumstances.
Sudden population declines can also be caused by drought, algae blooms, overpopulation or temperature increases — Lake Isle’s crisis was attributed to a bloom.
Seven to 10 years ago, Crimson Lake was illegally stocked with yellow perch, leading it to become a fishery.
Alberta Environment and Parks is investigating the die-off to determine if it was complete or partial, Dykstra said.
“Mother Nature will clean up the lake in short order.”
The Crimson Lake Cottage Association and Alberta Parks were granted research licenses, giving them permission to remove the dead fish from the lake if necessary. The remains need to be disposed of at an approved landfill facility, he said.
Rocky Mountain House is about 100 km west of Red Deer.