The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is exploring a lot of options as it attempts to replace around 150,000 trout that died after vandalism at the agency’s Armstrong Fish Hatchery in McDowell County over Easter weekend.
The Commission said the trout, which ranged from 4 to 10 inches long, died after equipment at the hatchery was tampered with late on Saturday, April 4. A valve was turned, resulting in freshwater being turned away from the hatchery, causing the suffocation of thousands and thousands of rainbow trout.
According to the McDowell News, investigators with the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office are looking into the incident, which could affect trout stockings in streams in 12 North Carolina counties not only this year but in 2016.
“It’s pretty evident it was a malicious act,” David Deaton, a fish-production supervisor for the Commission, told the newspaper, estimating the loss at around $150,000 and explaining that it takes 12 to 18 months to raise trout to stockable sizes .
Commission officials said they have other fish that can be used for stocking this year, and they will transfer fish to Armstrong from the Pisgah Forest hatchery near Brevard.
“My goal is not to impact our stocking,” said Deaton. “We will work feverishly on a plan to mitigate these losses.”
A Commission release said that it could increase feeding rates to grow trout faster, and that it had received officers of assistance and trout from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.