Thousands of fish washed up dead in the Gasper River, wildlife officials investigating

LOGAN COUNTY, Ky. – From small fish to big fish, and every species of fish in between, thousands of fish have died in a mass killing in the Gasper River in Logan County.

Fish washed up dead along the shoreline over the holiday weekend.

Since Saturday, local fish and wildlife officials have been working tirelessly to find the source of this mass fish killing.

“Anywhere where the water is still or there’s a pile of rocks, there’s dead fish laying around,” said David Erickson, a local fisherman who’s seen first-hand all the dead fish floating around.

“It’s not an every day thing especially of this magnitude,” said Bryan Hill, a conservation officer for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife began receiving reports over the weekend of fish washing up on shore, rocks and the surface of the water along a portion of the river that flows through Logan County.

“The 1083 bridge was where the first report came from,” added Hill. “We received some other reports on a creek that flows into Gasper River known as Clear Fork.”

Erickson, who took several pictures of the deceased fish, said it’s heartbreaking to see so much death in one place.

“Every living species it looked to me that was in the river,” he said. “Every type of species of fish, crawfish were all dead.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, officials have yet to determine the source of these deaths.

“We’re working,” said Hill. “Our fisheries staff is working to determine that along with the Kentucky Division of Water.”

There’s a number of possible reasons behind the death, officials said, but there were low oxygen levels in the water.

“We just start investigating it like we would any other potential crime and see where the investigation leads us,” Hill said.

In the mean time, their plan of action includes containing the tainted water from traveling any further along the river.

“The best way to stop it is if you can find the source, stop the source,” said Hill. “We’re working just as quickly as we can to get that under control and prevent the flow from taking it anywhere else.”

Even when they finally find the cause of this damage, though, an incident as large as this could have long-lasting implications for the river and its ecosystem.

“Depending on how devastating it is it can take five to 10 years for the quality of that stream, and the quality of the fish in that stream, to get back to where they were,” said Erickson.

WNKY will continue to follow this story and provide updated information about the cause of this killing as it is made available by wildlife officials.