HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Tens of thousands of dead fish were found packing a canal in the Hamptons.

As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, the die-off involved bunker fish in the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays.

It was quite a sight for many to behold — dead fish as far as the eye could see.

“There are thousands and thousands of them down there,” one resident said.

The sight forced many to do a double take.

“I thought it was frost in the morning,” another resident added.

Others thought it looked like ice, and many couldn’t believe what they were seeing and smelling.

The bunker fish were in the Shinnecock Canal on Monday morning, but then the locks were opened out and they went into the bay.

“They’re all dead up on the beach, in the water, behind the building,” Ken Reney said.

“I actually talked to a couple of DEC officer who said they’ve never seen it this bad before,” boat captain Dennis DeMarco said.

The DEC or state Department of Environmental Conservation said it’s investigating. Local experts believe they know the cause.

“There was a big school of blue fish in the bay earlier on Sunday,” Marine Scientist Center, Manager, at Stony Brook Southampton, Chris Paparo said. “Blue fish eat bunker and they chase the bunker into the canal like this and the locks are closed, fish can’t escape, and when they get pushed in they deplete the oxygen.”

That means a free meal for a lot of young birds who prey on bunker, and an early gift for some fishermen.

“They’ll use them for lobster bait, crab bait, fishing bait, so for them, a couple of them were saying it was Christmas,”Paparo said.

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