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Dead fish surface at Sunset Park Pond

Updated May 24, 2023 - 2:02 pm

Hamilton Ward was perplexed at the sight of a single dead fish floating in Sunset Park Pond Sunday morning.

What he saw rounding the body of water, however, shocked the Las Vegas resident.

“It seemed to me like there were hundreds (of dead fish),” he said Tuesday. “It was really disappointing to see all that death.”

While upsetting, Ward hadn’t stumbled upon a nefarious act, or a scene “indicative of some major environmental catastrophe,” said Douglas Nielsen, a conservation educator with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, which replenishes the pond for fishing enthusiasts throughout the year.

It was an instance of nature doing nature things, Nielsen explained.

By this time of year when the temperature starts to rise, most of the “thousands and thousands” of rainbow trout dumped into the urban pond during the cooler months have usually been fished out or eaten by the birds, he said.

But at least 119 had survived anglers and the food chain only to have died as of Monday, when water temperatures measured 84 degrees, Nielsen said.

When it gets that hot, “the trout just won’t make it,” he said. “It’s way out of their norm.”

Nielsen said more trout, the only species of fish found dead, could resurface, and that the wildlife department was monitoring the waters.

In the nearly three decades that he has frequented the park, Ward said he’s never seen anything like it.

He shows up multiple times a week to jog, walk around, or to simply look of the ducks, geese and rabbits.

Ward said he initially thought the first fish he saw had been victim to an unfortunate fishing accident. Multiple people still had fishing lines in the water and didn’t appear concerned, he said.

The Department of Wildlife stocks the pond with different fish species depending on the time of year.

During the warmer months, it dumps catfish and sometimes bluegill into the pond, which are able to survive warmer waters, Nielsen said.

Nielsen said the new supply was expected in the next couple of weeks.

Ward questions why fishing was allowed in the pond in the first place. He said he’s seen birds injured by tangled fishing lines.

“Maybe it’s not such a good idea to stock that lake anymore if this is what’s going to happen,” Ward said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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