DNR: Smelly, Rotten Fish 'Natural' Along Cedar River Banks

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- There's a smelly nuisance along the Cedar River. Dozens, if not hundreds, of gizzard shad are floating up to the top of the water. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says it is normal for this time of year.

The fish aren't a pretty site or smell for anyone taking a walk by the river today. Some of the gizzard shad looks like it just floated to the surface, but others have started decomposing and might have been a raccoon's late night snack.

"{It's} the chase to catch fish. Something to do on a nice day," said angler Matt Moon.

A quiet Monday afternoon fishing off the Cedar River for Matt Moon is relaxing, peaceful, and a bit smelly.

"Oh yeah it smells. It smells bad. It's not the most pleasant thing in the world," said Moon.

Dead, decomposing, gizzard shad come as an uninvited guest to Moon's fishing party. And by the dozens, groups of this fish pop up as a natural process at the start of spring.

"Some years you'll see it more than others. This year you had all that late ice that just kept it stacked up a little bit longer," said Iowa DNR Spokesperson Joe Wilkinson.

You'll remember fascinating shots of the ice jam on the Cedar River just a month ago. The ice literally froze fish that were naturally dying off in the winter. And now that the ice is finally melting down, they're showing up. Even though it's a large number, the Iowa DNR doesn't plan on sweeping the water or removing the fish carcasses.

"Most of the chad you see is just a small percentage of what's lying on the bottom of the river. Catfish are going to gorge on them, raccoons are going to come out at night and we've seen a few that have been gorged on already," said Wilkinson.

Anglers might use this opportunity to get natural bait.
It's important to remember, gizzard shad are smaller fish and very flat. The real concern is when you see game fish like catfish or bluegill dying off in large numbers. That's when you call the Iowa DNR.
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