The fish kill at Big Fish Flat on the Clarence River Wilderness Lodge.
The fish kill at Big Fish Flat on the Clarence River Wilderness Lodge.

FISH KILL: Shocking discovery on the river

AS THE Clarence stands a shadow of its former self, tragedy has struck in its upper reaches.

On Monday, Stephen Ross of the Clarence River Wilderness Lodge woke to find numerous dead fish floating on the surface of the water at Big Fish Flat, known for its eastern cod.

Mr Ross said concern had been growing over the state of the waterhole since flow stopped in December 2018 and it had shrunk to about a third of its original size.

"We have been a bit more concerned over the last month or so because of colour changes and it reducing in size and come Monday we found a whole lot of fish floating all at once on the top of the waterhole.

"It turned out to be 15 freshwater mullet, four bass, four eastern cod and one eel."

Since they found the fish, Mr Ross said they had been running a firefighting pump into the river in an effort to aerate the water.

"We are just sucking it out of the river and blowing into the air and back into the water to oxygenate it.

"Since then we have not had any more fish deaths."

Worryingly for Mr Ross, "the whole landscape has been burned around us" and he was concerned if there was significant rainfall the ash could run straight into what was left of the river.

"We are pretty concerned about changes to the pH level and ash run-off when it does rain," he said.

NSW Fisheries had been contacted and were heading to the property to collect the dead cod, but without an aerator available to give to the property Mr Ross said they were "basically on their own to try and maintain the waterhole".

"It is shocking for us. We manage our property for its environmental values," he said.

"We have conservation in mind and to see the fish impacted like that is not very good,"

"We don't allow fishing here, not even catch and release, and we see ourselves as a nursery area for the eastern cod."

But there was some good news, with the Humane Society offering a grant for the purchase of a solar-powered aerator that would float on the surface of the waterhole.