A few hundred fish were found dead in the East Fork of the San Jacinto River on the west side of Cleveland on Saturday, and authorities are now investigating to see if the fish died from a contaminant in the river or another cause.
According to Cleveland Police Chief Darrel Broussard, officers were called to the river bridge on Saturday afternoon to investigate an abandoned vehicle. When they arrived, they found no vehicle but detected a strong, foul odor coming from the East Bank of the San Jacinto River off of SH 105 West, just before FM 1725.
“They started walking along the edges of the river and discovered around 200 dead fish. The game warden was contacted to continue the investigation,” Broussard said.
Texas Game Warden Jake Noxon said the dead fish were mostly shad, a bait fish used to catch other game fish. While it is not uncommon for a lake or pond turnover, caused by a rapid drop in dissolved oxygen levels, to cause a rapid kill-off of fish, Noxon said turnovers typically do not occur in rivers that have flowing waters like the San Jacinto River and its forks.
He suspects the fish were killed by unknown toxins in the water.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has been contacted. I have also reached out to Inland Fisheries and am waiting for them to call me back with information,” Noxon said.
For now, fishermen catching fish in that portion of the river are advised to catch and release. Do not consume the fish until the cause of the kill-off has been determined.
“This could have been caused by a number of factors. We have had issues in the past with gravel pit run-off but there is no way to know right now. We haven’t had much rain lately but we did recently get three inches, which could have caused oil that was built up on roads to run into the river,” Noxon said.
Chief Broussard said there is no cause for alarm at this time and that authorities are choosing to err on the side of caution.