Thousands Of Channel Catfish Still Dying On Lake Palestine

Thousands of catfish in Lake Palestine are still dying and the exact cause of what is killing them has lake officials puzzled.

While biologists and health officials say it's safe to go in to the water, there are still concerns over the health of the fish.

Most of the fish bobbing on the waters surface Thursday had died within the past three days, according to biologist.  Vultures helped themselves to the remains washed up on the shore.

"Usually when it's a single species that it's affecting it's due to some disease probably in that population," said Greg Conley, Pollution Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Biologists first thought it was a bacteria that was killing the fish. Now, they suspect it's a disease only passed through the "channel catfish."

Thursday, Conley counted and measured dead fish to determine what age the suspected disease is hitting.

"The average size that we are seeing is about eight to 12 inches," Conley said.
News of the dying fish has hurt some local lake businesses.

Don Tolner owns the Lake Palestine Campground and Lodge.

"We're getting lots of calls wondering if the lake is safe to ski in, to swim in, and to fish," Don said.
He said the news has also scared some fisherman away. There were not many spotted on the lake at the time of our interview.

However, one couple caught dozens of channel catfish for a meal. They said despite the scare, they'll continue to fish.

"If we really thought there was something wrong with them, we wouldn't," said Brenda Hicks.
Biologists and health officials said it's safe to fish and play at Lake Palestine.
"If the channel cat was healthy enough to bite your hook I wouldn't have a problem with eating that fish," Greg Conley said.

Still Greg, like many others want to know, what's causing the fish to die.

Greg said since the last count almost two weeks ago, an estimated 4,000 more channel catfish have died.

The remains of three fish were sent to a lab in San Marcos for testing.
Results are expected next week and, hopefully, an answer to what is killing the fish.

Maya Golden, reporting,