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MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- The DNR says there will be fewer fish to catch this summer on lakes and rivers around the state. The reason isn't disease, it's ice and something that happens every winter. But the winter kill this year is expected to be more noticeable.

Right now under the thick ice on Muskegon Lake, fish are dying and many others may be close to death. "Winter kills are widespread and they occur intermittently in different lakes," explains Richard O'Neal, a DNR fisheries biologist. But the winter kill is normal. "Deeper lake usually have the least problems, shallow or weedy lake have the most problems."

This thick ice and deep snow cover on lakes block daylight and starve aquatic plants that produce oxygen the fish need to survive. O'Neal says the extreme cold should kill more fish than in recent years. "Usually when we see a fish kill because of low oxygen it involves multiple species."

Fish in large, deep lakes will fare better than fish in small shallow ponds like the ones Gregory Dahl stocks each spring. The pond Dahl checked Thursday had ice 31 inches thick. "This is the thickest ice I have seen in 20 years."

Now he's wondering if any of his fish will be around to catch this summer. "We hope we do not have a die off. I am worried we will be experiencing some die off in some of the farm ponds."

The winter kill will be noticed a month after the ice leaves the lakes because the dead fish are temporarily preserved by the cold water. Fish in Lake Michigan should not be affected by the ice cover, but other creatures that live in and near the water like turtles, frogs, toads and crayfish will also be killed off in greater numbers.

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