The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 12 - 11/18/99
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$800K project will protect hatchery fish from disease and predators
by Rob Shaul
Last year's discovery of trout infected with whirling disease-infected in Forty Rod Creek west of Daniel sent shivers through the Game & Fish Department in Sublette County. Of special concern was the proximity of the Daniel Fish Hatchery to Forty Rod Creek, and the possibility that the hatchery was in danger of being infected with the disease. Forty Rod Creek runs adjacent to the hatchery, and one of the hatchery's ponds lay just 20 feet from the creek.
Faced with the very real possibility that the hatchery could become infected with the disease, the G&F had three options says Daniel Hatchery Superintendent George Gunn: (1) close the hatchery; (2) take the chance that the hatchery wouldn't get infected, or; (3) spend money on hatchery improvements to eliminate the possibility of infection.
The department chose option #3, and this August, R.I. Galloway Construction out of Afton began work on a new 127-foot X 200-foot metal-sided building which will enclose the hatchery's new raceways. The department also completed overdue renovations inside the hatchery, including a thorough renovation of the fresh water piping system. The total approximate cost of the work is $800,000.
During the construction, most of the hatchery's fish were farmed out to other hatcheries in the state says Mr. Gunn. The hatchery was able to continue to raise some fish, and as the construction progresses, more and more fish shipments are arriving.
The Daniel Hatchery fulfills a very important role in the state as it provides Wyoming's entire brood source for Bear River and Colorado Cutthroat trout. The hatchery also raises splake, golden, brook, rainbow, and brown trout for stocking.
Concerning whirling disease, Mr. Gunn says the hatchery is fed by a spring and a pump-fed well, so infection through the source water is minimal. The concern came from predators and other animals that could have tracked mud and whirling disease spores into the hatchery's exposed ponds. With the new building, these ponds will be enclosed, greatly reducing this possibility.
George says the new building will have benefits beyond minimizing concerns over whirling disease infection. The building and its enclosed ponds and raceways will greatly reduce the hatchery's losses due to predators such as osprey, herons and mink. The hatchery has always suffered "major damage" in terms of fish loss to animals says Mr. Gunn. He's seen ospreys hit a pond and fly away with as many as four fish in one grab, only to drop three of them in the meadow on the way to the nest.
Mink have been especially destructive continues Mr. Gunn. Mink have come up from the Green River, gotten into one of the hatchery's ponds and left dozens of fish on the banks with just their heads bitten off. With the new building, all the ponds and raceways will be enclosed, hopefully eliminating the hatchery's losses to predators and other animals.
In addition to Mr. Gunn, two additional G&F personnel man the Daniel Hatchery. The facility must be watched seven days a week, around the clock. Mr. Gunn and his crew split watch duty to ensure the hatchery is covered. "I have a hell of a crew," says George proudly, "we get along good together."
Construction at the hatchery is scheduled to be completed by July 1, 2000.
Photo credits: Rob Shaul
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