Conservation department project causes a massive fish kill at Schell Lake

VERNON COUNTY, Mo. Thousands of dead fish are rotting away on the banks of Schell Lake.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is draining the body of water for a major renovation project.

"I've seen fish kills before but nothing like this," says Gary Roetto.

He read about what the conservation was doing at Schell Lake and drove from Bolivar to check it out.

"I didn't know anything about the dead fish I just wanted to see the lake being drained. I thought, well that will be a kick to watch a bunch of guys out there catch fish out of a pot hole because you know there's going to be a lot of them," he said.

He wasn't prepared for what he saw.

"To waste that many fish just blows my mind," says Roetto.

The conservation department started draining the lake in preparation for construction projects resulting in a massive fish kill. Fishery biologists say that most of the fish that died are not native to this region and are invasive.

However, many people say more fish should have been saved.

"Everybody I've talked to has just been furious. The more I thought about it the angrier I got. The conservation department is supposed to conserve our natural resources. Look, these resources aren't being conserved," says Roetto.

The department issued an emergency fish salvage order. This allows anglers to catch the fish by any means necessary, still abiding by state limits.

"Hire a company to net those out of there, put them in the other lake, put them in the river or butcher them," says Roetto.

He thinks the department should be held responsible for the waste.

"If you or I or any citizen wasted a bunch of fish, caught a bunch of fish, threw them on the bank to die, we'd be prosecuted, for a fraction of this," he says.

The experts actually expected a fish kill but say it happened faster then they anticipated.

Starting July 1st no one will be allowed to fish at Schell Lake.