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Thousands of dead fish in South Branch Whitewater

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ELBA — Thousands of brown and rainbow trout, suckers, chubs, dace and other fish were found dead in and near the South Branch Whitewater River Thursday.

They are believed to have died Tuesday, said Vaughn Snook, assistant Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor in Lanesboro. "Something happened, we think, on Tuesday morning in the rain," he said.

The river rose after the rain and was dirty, so people wouldn't have been able to see dead fish, he said. But when the water dropped, some dead fish were 20 feet from the stream, indicating they had died there during high water, he said.

Also, the fish were "stinky — they had been there a day or two," he said.

Because of that, the DNR is suggested that people not fish or recreate along that branch of the river this weekend until more is known.

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"I would recommend going somewhere else, keep the dogs out, keep the kids out," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen."

One farmer reported two of his cows that had been in the stream, probably drinking the water, had aborted their fetuses. It happens now and then but "he thinks having two in one morning is odd," Snook said.

The stream starts a few miles north of Utica and flows north until joining the main Whitewater near Elba. Much of the land directly along the stream is part of the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, but some parts are also farmed or used for a large camping area, often called Kreidermacher's.

"Something happened upstream of his (Kreidermacher's)," Snook said.

He said he's been in Lanesboro for 12 years and this is the biggest kill he has seen.

The DNR collected 235 dead fish in two small areas, and there were thousands of others in other parts of the stream, he said. Because of the seriousness of the kill, the departments of agriculture and pollution control were also there to collect water samples and dead fish for testing, he said.

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