Michael A. Sawyers
ACCIDENT — Thousands of trout were killed at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Bear Creek Hatchery near Accident during Superstorm Sandy, the Times-News has learned.
Spokesmen for the DNR’s Fisheries Service confirmed Thursday that a lightning strike on Oct. 29 immediately killed about 7,000 of the 70,000 trout at the facility. Delayed mortality from that event claimed another 400.
“Sandy hit Bear Creek Hatchery very hard,” said Brian Richardson, hatchery division manager. “As in much of Garrett County, heavy snows, lightning and high winds wreaked havoc at the facility. Thirty-five large trees came down on hatchery buildings, vehicles, power lines and telephone lines. Another 90 trees were severely damaged and most of them needed to be removed,” Richardson wrote in an email.
One hatchery worker lives on-site. There were no human injuries.
The facility was without electricity, telephone or Internet for about two weeks. In spite of the fallen trees and utility poles, structural damage was limited to some missing shingles and a dented truck, according to Richardson.
Richardson said he anticipated that delayed mortality from the lightning strike could kill as many as 20,000 trout, but that was not the case.
The bulk of the dead fish were half-pound rainbows, although about 1,200 were 4-pounders. Fish killed by lightning show severe bruising and separated spinal columns, the biologist said.
The hatchery had just returned to full production in 2012 following an extended closure because whirling disease had been discovered in trout there.
The stocking in streams and lakes in Garrett and Allegany counties will not decrease, said Tom O’Connell, fisheries director. Trout from Albert Powell Hatchery in Washington County will replace the fish that were killed at Bear Creek.
The trout stocked this spring will be 0.6 pound each, as is usually the case. Trout stocked this coming fall will be closer to one pound.
Sixty thousand trout currently reside at the hatchery, with 52,000 to be stocked this spring and 8,000 stocked at fishing rodeos for young people.
O’Connell said the spring stocking schedule would be available soon.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at email@example.com.