Withlacoochee Flooding and Fish Kills

In the wake of recent Withlacoochee River flooding caused by Hurricane Irma, some areas in Citrus County have experienced an increase in incidents of “Fish Kills” and associated odors brought on by decomposing fish. Here is some information on the recent fish kill:

Fish Kill Causes: 

Besides some common causes of fish kills in Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that major storm events like hurricanes with resulting rising water can make conditions favorable for increased fish deaths. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is the lead agency for responding to fish kills. Their web site has information on their causes http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/health/reported-fish-kills-abnormalities/.  Citizens can report an incident online: http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/health/fish-kills-hotline/ or by calling (800) 636-0511.

Health Concerns:

The Florida Department of Health recommends you follow these general guidelines when a fish kill is observed:

  • Do not eat, collect, or use fish, shrimp or crabs that were found dead or dying, from distressed areas.
  • Do not harvest or eat shellfish from waters that have been closed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, or from areas where large numbers of distressed or dead fish are present.
  • Do not harvest fish, shrimp or crabs that are acting erratically, have sores or ulcers, or that appear to be diseased.
  • Do not swim or play in water where distressed or dead fish are present. If you come in contact with the water, immediately wash exposed areas thoroughly with soap and clean water.
  • Do not let pets swim in or drink from water in the vicinity of a fish kill. If your pets come in contact with water, immediately wash their fur thoroughly with soap and clean water.
  • Items that have come in contact with affected waters should be thoroughly washed with soap and clean water or disinfected with a bleach solution (mix ¼ cup of household bleach per gallon of water and immerse for 15 minutes) prior to continuing their use.
  • Contact your physician if you believe you have become ill as a result of consuming or being exposed to fish or affected waters during a fish kill.

If you have other health questions about fish kills, please call the Florida Department of Health in Citrus County, Environmental Health Section at: (352) 513-6103. If you see an unknown substance in a lake or water body and suspect the fish kill is a result of a toxic spill, please call Florida’s 24-hour State Watch Office at (850) 815-4001.