When Robert Athey arrived at Rush Lake last Friday, he knew immediately what was causing that awful smell he detected about a mile down the road.
Rotting fish."The more I started looking, the more dead fish I could see," said Athey, a Salt Lake resident.
Athey got in the water anyway and sailed across the lake and he saw that dead carp and chubs had formed about a two-foot-wide ring around the shore.
"I sailed for about an hour but I just couldn't stand the smell so I left. I was worried I'd get sick."
The fish died the last week of July, apparently from poor water quality, said Doug Sakaguchi, a biologist with the state Division of Wildlife Resources.
The number of total dissolved solids (TDS) in Rush Lake, which has no outlet, was measured this week at a whopping 18,300 parts per million. By comparison, drinking water cannot have TDS levels above 158. The lake also suffers from depleted oxygen.
The deaths of the carp and chub signal the end of the DWR's involvement with Rush Lake.
"I think we have probably given up," Sakaguchi said. "The water quality has degraded to the extent that it's very difficult to manage it as a sport fishery."
The perennial lake rose in the mid-1980s, following a wet cycle of precipitation. The DWR subsequently planted perch, bass and channel catfish to provide a recreational opportunity for anglers.
But the lake has slowly declined in size over the past few years, killing the gamefish first and now the carp and chubs.
Because of the rotting fish, the Tooele County Health Department is advising people to stay out of the water.