In March, New Jersey wildlife officials announced that over 114,000 trout were euthanized at the state’s Pequest Trout Hatchery due to an outbreak of the fatal bacterial disease furunculosis. On Tuesday, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that the hatchery will be killing an additional 90,000 brook trout after the remaining raceway of trout tested positive for the disease.
“Of the three species of trout affected by the disease, brook trout proved to be the most difficult to treat,” the Division said in a press release. “The loss of these brook trout will result in the cancellation of the remaining scheduled stockings on 64 warmwater lakes and ponds.”
It is the third time Pequest officials have ordered the destruction of fish after the disease was first discovered in the hatchery last year. Furunculosis affects cold-water fish such as brown and brook trout and can cause boils and lesions in stricken fish. The disease is not harmful to humans, but officials still advise that anglers be wary of eating any fish that looks diseased.
The loss of an additional 90,000 trout will severely curtail the Division’s stocking efforts. On average, Pequest Hatchery raises about 600,000 fish for the state every year, a majority of which are stocked prior to opening day. The decrease in fish, shortened season, and concerns over the human health risks have led to a lower number of anglers in many of the state’s waterways. Some bait shops and sporting good stores are also reporting a decline in business.
“It’s cutting our sales season in half,” Jim Heebner, owner of The Owl’s Nest in Pohatcong Township, told The Express-Times.
Wildlife officials, however, said that angling opportunities are still plentiful. Although the Division already dropped more than 40 stream sections from its stocking program, the agency asserted that trout numbers actually increased in 85 percent of the waterways still in the program. Pequest Hatchery still contains about 44,000 rainbow trout, which are expected to be distributed over the next two weeks.