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Nearly 100 fish found dead in Lake Selmac

About 90 to 100 bass were found dead over the past five days in Lake Selmac. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

Since late last week, people fishing at Lake Selmac have found between 90 and 100 fish floating dead in the water - immediately reaction from anglers was "devastation."

Both anglers and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife believe the fish have been dead for some time.

"They've been dead awhile because all the eyes are gone," Eric Karluk, the angler who took most of the photos of the dead fish, said.

Karluk first heard about the dead fish through a friend late last week. The friend told him it was about 25 fish dead in the water. After Karluk checked it out personally, it turned out to be much more than that.

"I saw the fish, took some pictures of the fish here. and then I also took a count from [the shore] that I could see and I came up with 40," Karluk said.

After counting from the shore, Karluk took out his boat with his friend, Steve Martin, to continue counting across the lake. He took more photos and posted them on Facebook where people immediately began to theorize the death came from chemicals from local pot farms or the construction at the dam. Karluk, who's been fishing on the lake for six years, says that's not the case.

"It's not poison or anything like that because there would be other species of fish dead," Karluk said. "It's something that's affecting the bass."

Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife took some samples of the water, vegetation and bass - both dead and alive - on Monday.

"Our best theory at this point is something triggered a drop in oxygen levels in the lake and the fish suffocated," David Haight said.

ODFW believes the fish died in a short span of time probably about a week ago. That drop in oxygen could be caused by the vegetation in the water, temperature fluctuations or weather changes. Unfortunately, even that theory brings more questions.

"It's kind of surprising it's only affecting the adult Large Mouth Bass as well because certainly other species would be susceptible to low oxygen levels," Haight said.

If those questions can be answered at all, the investigation might get even more complicated.

"Dissolved oxygen levels that we measured out there Monday were back up where they should be so it may be impossible to ever say for sure what caused the problem," Haight said.

ODFW continues to investigate to see if there were any other problems in the lake such as parasites or disease. If that's the case, ODFW should be able to determine the cause fairly quickly.

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