ST. STEPHEN - Thousands of dead shad line the Rediversion Canal banks below the hydropower dam and fish passage. But wildlife biologists aren't too concerned.
American shad migrate in from the ocean each year to spawn and, like salmon, die after they do, said Chad Holbrook, S.C. Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist. Normally most of them make it through the fish passage to disperse in the Marion-Moultrie lakes and upstream rivers. On good years as many as 350,000 are counted in the passage.
This year, Holbrook suspects that heavy spring rains kept the flow too high for a lot of the fish, he said. "You're asking a free swimming fish to find a small channel and ride an elevator up a dam," he said.
Shad key on flowing fresh water to spawn, so it's likely many of them spawned below the spilling dam, he said.
"It's startling to see a lot of shad carcasses lining the banks," he said, But what happened isn't too far out of the ordinary and biologists don't think another factor, such as contamination, played a part.