Hundreds of Fish Dead in Wynlakes Pond

Alabama's long running drought is attacking in a new place - underwater.

People living in Montgomery's Wynlakes neighborhood woke up to a bad smell that looked even worse - hundreds of fish from the area's ponds, all dead.

Even worse, the rain we might get this week may kill even more.

It's one of Montgomery's toniest neighborhoods, but despite manicured lawns and decorative fountains, there they are hundreds of bass, bluegill and grass carp, belly up just a few yards from several backdoors. All dead likely because of the same problem farm ponds see in summer.

"In summertime, it's worse than it is in winter time. Warmer water holds less oxygen per volume," said fish farmer Don Keller.

Keller owns American Sports Fish, which breeds and stocks game fish, and like Wynlakes, even the experts have lost a few fish.

"It's kind of a tricky thing," he said.

Microscopic plankton supplies oxygen to fish through photosythesis. When healthy plankton is in the water, you see a nice green color. But there's also a balance.  What happens if you get too much plankton? It dies.

"And when it dies," Keller explained, "as it starts to decay it biodegrades and it's actually starts sucking oxygen out of there."

In order to keep a balance, commercial fish farmers use aerators just like your old home aquarium, only on a grander scale. Wynlakes has a large fountain running in the pond where so many fish perished, but Keller says it's not that efficient.

He recommends the development look into something else.

"All our aerators are on a timer and and we have some with rotors that create a little more turbulence on the water and they're pretty efficient," he said.

That rain may actually cause more fishkills? Keller says when dark clouds block the sun for a couple of days and then deliver on a little rain, that slows down plankton growth and doesn't increase water volum.  That, in turn, actually causes oxygen levels to fall even more.

If that happens, more fish could literally suffocate in their natural habitat.