Altura, MN  (KROC AM News) - The Minnesota DNR shut down its Crystal Springs trout hatchery Friday and this will have an impact on stocking programs for at least three years.

The hatchery located near Altura in Winona County was affected by a bacteria that forms boils and lesions on fish and eventually kills them.  It’s suspected the bacteria was carried to the hatchery through flood waters from the Whitewater River. The fish had to be killed and the hatchery will be decontaminated to remove the bacteria.

“Killing the hatchery’s fish is unfortunate and a choice we’d prefer not to make, but immediate and aggressive action is necessary to eliminate this pathogen,” said Paula Phelps, coldwater fish production supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources.

Crystal Springs produces brook and lake trout that are stocked in Minnesota rivers and lakes, primarily in southeastern and northeastern Minnesota. Phelps said temporarily closing the hatchery will mean that some waters will get fewer stocked trout. However, the DNR plans to mitigate those impacts on trout populations and anglers as much as possible. This will be done by partially replacing the Crystal Springs brook trout production with brook trout from Wisconsin hatcheries. Also, the DNR’s Lanesboro fish hatchery can provide brown and rainbow trout to help make up for the temporary lack of Crystal Springs trout.

The DNR’s pathology lab first detected the pathogen in July 2014. Treatments – three in 2014 and two in 2015 – did not eliminate the disease agent, which is contained in water the hatchery releases into a holding pond that drains into the river.

Once depopulation and disinfection of the hatchery is complete, the hatchery will resume operation using uncontaminated brook trout brood stock and be regularly tested for any reoccurrence of the pathogen.

However, a hatchery must be disease-free for three years before fish produced there can be stocked in Minnesota waters. Brook trout brood stock takes three years to produce, meaning eggs can be available in 2018 and fish for stocking in 2019. The Lake Superior fisheries planning process will determine whether lake trout production will resume at Crystal Springs.

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