Not only has the extreme drought and abnormally warm temperatures taken a toll on crops across the state, Iowa's fish population is facing a problem of its own.
A combination of the heat and lack of rain has left numerous bodies of water across the state in need of wet weather and this has led to the death of thousands of fish who lost the battle to survive the unbearable conditions.
That problem is somewhat prevalent in Marshall County, but Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshall County Conservation Board, said there hasn't been anything significant like the fish kill found in a West Des Moines pond earlier this week.
T-R PHOTO BY LUKE STALZER
The Iowa River, pictured here just east of Marshalltown Tuesday afternoon, has lost large amounts of water within the past months leaving fish with shallow conditions and no where to go to cool off, killing them in large amounts. State officials are continuing to monitor the problem caused by the extreme summer heat, but say it’s unpredictable what could happen next.
"It's pretty sporadic in Marshall County," Stegmann said. "We're really seeing it in the small farm ponds; it's not been terribly bad."
Stegmann said it is the shallow bodies of water that should be the most concerning because the water tends to heat up quicker and there's no deep spots where fish can go to cool off or look for an outlet.
"Areas greater than 12 feet deep, the fish can go down and get some oxygen," Stegmann said.
Paul Sleeper, a fisheries management biologist with the state of Iowa, agreed with Stegmann and said the farm ponds pose the most threat, but the rivers are also deadly right now.
"We have a long ways to go," Sleeper said. "When the river gets this low, there's not a lot of spots for the fish to go to get oxygen."
Not only is the lack of oxygen a problem, but green algae has taken over ponds and lakes which is a threat to fish because they live off the oxygen provided by the water. Sleeper said it grows in hot temperatures, but then tends to die off overnight when the temperature drops below 50, but that hasn't happened in quite some time causing the sudden outbreak.
"Iowa has real fertile water so that also helps it grow," Sleeper said.
Sleeper said the weather has really taken a toll on the walleye and northern pike population among other cool-water fish in the state, and the owner of a local fish hatchery can relate to the issue.
Todd Hinegardner, owner of North Star Fish Hatchery in Montour, said he's really had to keep a close eye on his walleye and he has lost a few fish this summer already, but he's been pumping cool, fresh water from his 70-acre lake to his small ponds to help with the problem.
"I haven't had too many die," Hinegardner said. "I've been pumping water to them."
Hinegardner said his business - which hatches bass, bluegill, catfish, carp, walleye and crappie - has taken a hit because of the weather and that's going to be his biggest challenge come the next few months.
"Everyone else's ponds are going down," Hinegardner said. "Everyone's on hold buying fish for their farm ponds."
Sleeper said, for now, there is nothing that can be done, but sit back and just wait for some precipitation.
"Every lake and pond is different, but hopefully we get some rain," Sleeper said.
As for the dry, hot conditions and if they're here to stay, Harry Hillaker, State of Iowa climatologist, said the forecast for the first two weeks in August looks to be in the low to mid-90s and warmer than normal.
"There won't be much relief," Hillaker said. "The bad news is, the center of high pressure causing all of this weather is the highest it's been all summer, so it could get pretty hot."