By ZOE SINCLAIRzoe@gladstoneobserver.com.au
THE smell hits you first. Then the flies. Then you see their oozing bodies.
Little could have been worse than the nauseating smell of more than 5000 dead fish, putrid and decomposing as they lay bloated on the surface of a popular Marmor fishing spot on the weekend.
Fishermen and locals were left puzzled and disgusted by the thousands of fish, including barramundi and mullet, which were dead due to a nat-ural occurrence at 12 Mile Creek, Marmor. Gladstone fisherman Jim Hill was one of the first to see the fish when he visited 12 Mile Creek on Friday.
'We'd heard about this good fishing spot and we went up to have a look see,' Mr Hill said.
What greeted Mr Hill were piles of fish, most between 50cm and one metre that any fisherman would be normally be proud to reel in, wasted and rotting, already dead for about two days.
Local recreational fishing expert and Infofish Services proprietor Bill Sawynok visited the small tidal water hole on the weekend and prepared a report.
Mr Sawynok said the deaths were most likely due to deoxygenisation of 12 Mile Creek, which happened because of low water levels, high salination and heat.
'It would almost certainly be oxygen depletion,' Mr Sawynok said.
A total of 5647 fish died including about 2000 fantail mullet, 1700 striped butterfish, 1400 bony bream and 133 barramundi.
Twelve Mile Creek has been an important barramundi nursery area and monitored through tagging of fish since about 1984.
This is the second time a mass fish death has happened at the site. Another occurred in May 2001 and Mr Sawynok said the barramundi hatchery site had deteriorated due largely to climate change.
'It was previously a very good habitat but it has become very marginal,' he said.
'If it had rained a few days earlier it probably wouldn't have happened.'