(6:55 PM) Weed Mass Trapping, Killing Fish In Burtis Bay

Multiple fish gasp for air after being forced out of the water at a shoreline along Chautauqua Lake. A mass of weeds, predominantly Eurasian milfoil, has trapped at least hundreds of fish of various species in Burtis Bay near 10 Chautauqua Place and adjacent residences. Fish that recently spawned this year as well as fully grown perch, bass, crappie and sunfish have been killed and are left to rot. P-J photos by Eric Zavinski

CELORON — A rancid smell is carried on the winds in Burtis Bay.

With a sizable mass of invasive Eurasian milfoil and other weeds collected there, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fish are trapped, most already dead, with no choice but to frantically flop around in an attempt to escape.

Mike Newell of 10 Chautauqua Place reported severe winds Nov. 3 that he observed pulling in a mass of weeds he estimated covering the waters about 150 feet away from the shoreline connected to his backyard. The Eurasian milfoil and other weeds packed together in an approximately 60 feet space after the weekend’s high winds, trapping fish that were feeding in the area near the shore.

Hundreds of fingerlings, fish that recently spawned this year, were caught near Newell’s break wall with more surfacing, struggling and dying every day. Fully grown yellow perch, sunfish, largemouth bass, black crappie, white crappie and more are also trapped in the mess that continues to be covered by falling leaves. Some of them can be seen fighting to submerge themselves again, only to be picked off by birds who eat the eyes and gills while leaving the rest to rot slowly in the chill fall season.

“We get weeds every fall, but never this heavy,” Newell said.

He mentioned how weeds trapped fish on either side of his area of the shoreline with a rising water level and high winds contributing to the trap that caught hundreds of fish that can be seen and perhaps many more under the surface. The water level released dead weeds from the live ones, resulting in a huge mass that was easily pushed toward shore.

Newell has at least been a part-time resident of the area for 32 years and said he’s never seen anything like this before. He mentioned seeing the weed situation getting progressively worse throughout the years.

“There needs to be a lake management plan put in place,” said Newell, who wants lake groups to think more outside of the box to solve the prevalence of weeds. “I would like to see these different groups work together to set up a multi-faceted plan.”

See Friday’s edition of The Post-Journal for more coverage.