Abstract Humboldt Lake, a hypertrophic prairie lake typical of many found on the Great Plains of North America, is usually ice-covered from early November to about mid-May. The lake is an important recreational fishery, now mainly stocked with walleye. It has a high potential risk of experiencing fish kills because of the very large cyanobacterial blooms that develop in it, the high rates of algal and bacterial production and the high concentrations of ammonia (NH3-N) and dissolved organic matter. Following the collapse of cyanobacterial blooms, shallow prairie lakes are known to undergo periods of anoxia that can lead to summer fish kills. In some of the lakes, anoxia forms during the long period of ice cover, causing winter fish kills. Two years of seasonal and diel data (total phosphorus, dissolved oxygen (DO), NH3-N and chlorophyll-a concentrations, and bacterial production) were analysed in this study to assess why significant fish kills did not occur during this period or during the ≈ 30 years of records from Saskatchewan Environment. Humboldt Lake did not become anaerobic, either following the collapse of the cyanobacterial bloom or under ice cover, indicating that the oxygen (O2) influx (strong mixing) and production processes were greater than the microbial and chemical O2 demands, both over seasonal and diel time scales. Several published risk threshold criteria to predict the probability of summer and/or winter fish kills were applied in this study. The threshold criteria of maximum summer chlorophyll and maximum winter NH3-N concentrations indicated that a summer fish kill was unlikely to occur in this hypertrophic prairie lake, provided its water quality remained similar to that during this study. Similarly, the threshold criteria of initial DO storage before ice cover and the rate of O2 depletion under ice cover also indicated a winter fish kill was unlikely. However, recent development in the watershed might have resulted in significant water quality deterioration and the winter fish kill that occurred in 2005.