ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Hundreds of dead fish were discovered belly-up in a pond near Lytle Lake, leaving residents scrambling to clean up their properties.

For Warren Alkire, it was a nightmare waiting in the wings when he returned home from a family trip. Alkire said his family had no idea the fish kill occurred when they returned home, with the only information they received was a picture from a friend watching their home.

When KTAB/KRBC spoke with Alkire, he was ankle-deep in the low pond water, scooping out the floating fish with a net, disposing of them in a large trash bag.

“We finally called Animal Services, and they said if we could get them in trash bags, they’d come to pick them up,” Alkire relayed.

However, while Alkire was away on vacation, it was his neighbor, Mike Grissom, who noticed something out of the ordinary on Saturday: Vultures circling the pond.

“The reason I even came out was because I saw the buzzards – or I mean the vultures – on top of the pole there,” Grissom detailed. “I hadn’t seen them before.” 

On cue, vultures flew up by Grissom and landed in a nearby tree. But at this time, the vultures weren’t the problem, as Grissom looked down and saw the hundreds of fish lining the banks of the pond.

Grissom later spoke with KTAB/KRBC and left us this voicemail:

“I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of dead fish lining the rim of the pond.” 

In the neighborhood since 2009, Grissom said he remembers the pond getting low in 2011, but never as low as it is now. He said, at most, the deepest section of the pond is 12 feet deep.

“I’ve never seen this before,” Grissom said, shaking his head. “When I posted it on Facebook, it just makes me want to cry.”

While water levels remain that low, that means anything that washes up will be on the shoreline until it is removed or eaten by vultures. Unfortunately for Alkire, he said the way the wind blows through the neighborhood, it all washes up on his shoreline.

While the cause of the fish kill is unknown, the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife released this information on possible causes:

The most common cause of fish kills in Texas is low dissolved oxygen. If there isn’t enough oxygen in the water, fish can’t “breathe.” Low dissolved oxygen can be the result of human activities, but in many cases it’s a natural occurrence.

Daily variations in dissolved oxygen concentration are attributed to photosynthesis and aerobic respiration. Increased dissolved oxygen during the day is a result of photosynthesis which is driven by sunlight. Photosynthesis stops at night and may slow down on cloudy days, but plants and animals in the water continue to respire and consume free oxygen, decreasing the dissolved oxygen concentration. Often before a kill event occurs, fish can be seen trying to get oxygen by gulping at the surface of the water early in the morning. Some fish may also be lying on the bottom or at the edge of the water.

Other natural causes of fish kills include extreme weather (hot and cold), bacterial and viral diseases, and parasitic infections. In some cases algae blooms produce toxins that lead to fish kills. Visit our Harmful Algal Blooms section to learn more about golden alga, red tide, and cyanobacteria.

Extreme weather and harmful algal blooms tend to affect all species present. Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections typically affect only a single species.

No further information has been released.

According to Alkire, the City of Abilene told him a crew couldn’t come out to clean up the hundreds of fish because it was a private pond. Instead, he was instructed to bag up the fish and take it out like regular garbage.

The City did come and pick up the fish and officials are coming back to help with the remaining bags Tuesday.