Record heat and extreme drought are causing isolated fish kills in a handful of Kentucky streams.

Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, noted that some areas of the state are short of rainfall by 12 inches or more this year.

“Streams are very low right now,” he said. “Record heat combined with low water results in little to no dissolved oxygen in the water, making streams susceptible to isolated fish kills.”

Western Kentucky is bearing the brunt of the heat and drought. A significant fish kill recently occurred on the Pond River north of Madisonville after a brief rain shower pushed a slug of heated water containing little or no dissolved oxygen downstream. The fish kill mainly affected catfish, but carp and buffalo fish were also victims. Biologists with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife recorded water temperatures of 95 degrees in the river.

Other isolated fish kills have recently been reported where Clear Fork Creek meets the Gasper River in Warren County; at Russell Creek in Adair County; at Beargrass Creek in Jefferson County; and a tributary to Stoner Creek in Bourbon County. Low water flows can cause streams to stagnate. As a result, fish may die in intermittent pools due to a lack of oxygen.

Fish kills should be reported to the fisheries district biologist serving the affected area. The public can find the phone numbers of district fisheries biologists on page 31 of the current Kentucky Fish and Boating Guide, on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife homepage at, or by calling the department toll free at 1-800-858-1549.

“Once normal flows return, stream sections will repopulate with fish through the migration from other areas,” Ross said.

Logo courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

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