Today marks the 49th anniversary of the most odiferous disaster ever to strike the shores of Chicago:
[D]uring the 1930s, these alewives got into Lake Michigan. They weren’t much of a problem because the bigger fish–like the trout–would eat them. But the sea lamprey came along and ate the trout. Sea lampreys didn’t eat alewives, so suddenly, the lake had all these alewives and no predators.
Pretty soon there are alewives filling the lake. That’s what today’s story is about—July 7, 1967. There are so many alewives around Chicago that it’s become national news. Even Time magazine is talking about it.
Of course, those alewives would be decaying, and you can imagine the smell—well, you probably don’t want to. The flies would come in, and the beaches would be a mess. The city would have to use tractors and bulldozers to clear off the beaches.
Nobody knew how many dead alewives there were. Experts said hundreds of millions, maybe a billion. A guy in a plane over the lake saw a ribbon of drifting dead alewives 40 miles long.
I remember these die-offs continuing until the late 1970s. Today, we have salmon in the lake, so fewer alewives. At least, until the carp get here...