Imagine if this happened in Pennsylvania.
You spent days, if not weeks, getting ready for opening day of trout season. There were lures, flies and bait to buy. Sleeping bags and tents to pack for spending opening day eve along the stream. Food to prepare, waders to check, reels to re-spool.
Then, opening day came and you caught fish, laughed with family and friends, and generally had a good time.
The season is over. Not according to the calendar. It says trout season will remain in for weeks.
But the fish that were to replace those pulled from the water on opening day across 12 counties are all dead.
That’s what happened in North Carolina earlier this month.
According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, vandals shut off the water flow into a state-run fish hatchery on opening day of trout season. The result was the loss of 168,500 rainbow trout that were to be stocked this year and next.
According to the ABC News affiliate in Asheville, three men have been arrested in the case. Jack Brown, 21, and two 20-year-olds, Gabriel Miller and Adam Mitchell, are charged with injury to personal property, alerting water flow to a hatchery or aquatic center and pollution or damage to a hatchery or aquatic center.
The TV station reported that “the men were ‘messing around’ and had no idea the damage they had done before it was too late.”
That doesn’t make the impact any less severe.
The dead fish represented more than a third of those within the hatchery. It’s unlikely they can all be replaced.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission put out a statement Tuesday saying it annually builds a “buffer” into its production goals to account for losses. It’s going to use almost all of them, 50,000 trout, to make up for some of those lost.
It’s also going to try and aggressively feed some smaller fish that were in the pipeline for 2016 in hopes of getting them to catchable size for this year. And for next year, it’s already purchased 150,000 rainbow trout eggs from a commercial producer so as to be able to raise fish for next spring.
Other options are also under evaluation, officials said.
But for now, anglers are probably going to have to make do with less.