Fish out of water is big trouble for hatchery - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Fish out of water is big trouble for hatchery


LANESBORO, Minn. (KTTC) -- The cleanup continues following Saturday night's flash flooding and severe thunderstorms.  One of the harder hit areas was Lanesboro which is home to a fish hatchery that serves all of Minnesota.

When the water rose, it mixed all of the species of trout  together - and killed many more.  Now it's up to the employees to sort through more than 130,000 fish.

"This is the future of our hatchery that we are recovering here today," said Anna Nelson who was standing in a pool of trout.  Nelson is one of a handful of hatchery employees recuperating from Saturday's floods.

"All these raceways were packed full of fish," said Shawn Hase.  "So they got to go anywhere when the water gets this high."

While the fish were free to roam, the employees were stuck.

"We have a long way to go," said hatchery employee Melissa Peterson.  "They've been working on that one all day long so."

It's now up to the work of less than ten to sort 130,000 fish into 5 groups.  "Because of the grates that are in it," said Nelson, "it allows our fingerlings to fall through into this metal box that's made of screen."

"Now these are probably the most important," said hatchery supervisor Pat Schmidt grabbing a brown trout.  "These are probably four year old browns.  These are the ones we're getting our eggs from.  We supply all the brown trout for the state of Minnesota so they are a very important fish for us."

Pools, or raceways, that were empty now have thousands of fish in them.  And other raceways that were clean were now the opposite.

"It's very irritative to the fish's gills.  So that will just stress the fish out causing a lot of higher mortality of the fish in the raceways," said Hase who was sweeping the silt from the bottom of the raceway.

For some fish, the stress was too much.  "See we got dead fish in here too," said Hase.  "We got to take those out and cleans those up as well."

"You can probably just imagine fish and water everywhere," said Peterson.  "And they probably hunkered down maybe in these raceways a little bit.  But It's pretty much a mixture of everything."

When all is said, and separated, it will be time to see how many were actually saved.  "We really don't know," said Schmidt.  "We won't know until we have everything sorted.  Then we'll have to go in and do a total inventory at that time."

The hatchery is home to Minnesota's brown trout supply.   Depending on how many were lost, the hatchery may or may not reach its needed quota.  When it comes to the 3-year brood stock, each fish takes three years to replace.

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