BRIDGEPORT, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Quite a few of you have called and emailed the Your Stories team wondering what killed the thousands of fish still washing ashore along Oneida Lake.

Turns out, the massive die-off is still a mystery experts are actively working to solve!

On Sunday, June 4, Krissy McDermott sent NewsChannel 9 the following photos of the dead fish floating near her dock.

McDermott lives along the South Shore of Oneida Lake, not far from Lakeport. She wrote the Your Stories team:

According to Tony VanDeValk, coordinator of Cornell’s Oneida Lake Fisheries Research Program in Bridgeport, his team received the first reports of dead shad on May 24.

“In the first investigation, we did find a few dead fish, but nothing that was too alarming,” VanDeValk said. “On the second investigation, we literally found hundreds of dead fish and they were all adult gizzard shad.”

VanDeValk and his fellow researchers found the hundreds of adult gizzard shad floating in Fisher Bay in Bridgeport. He said the dead fish could be seen throughout the entire marina and the smell was potent.

“They tend to collect in marinas, especially when you have wind that blows fish that direction,” VanDeValk explained.

It’s not uncommon to see a handful of dead fish along shorelines in the springtime, but this die-off is rare!

“It’s very unusual. I’ve never seen an adult shed kill like this and I’ve been here for over 30 years. We don’t know the reason…It could be environmental. It could be viral. It could be bacterial. We just don’t know.”

Tony VanDeValk, Coordinator, Cornell’s Oneida Lake Fisheries Research Program


After consulting with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), VanDeValk and the other researchers collected shad samples to send to Cornell University’s Aquatic Vet Program Laboratory for further review.

Results from the investigation into the cause of death are expected by the end of June.

You might still see a few fish who died in this event still washing ashore, but VanDeValk is confident it won’t be by the hundreds.

At this time, he does not believe there are any health risks when it comes to swimming or boating on Oneida Lake.

Have a question for the Your Stories team?