If you’re having trouble catching trout next year in the many lakes and streams that are stocked by the American River Hatchery in Northern California this might be why.

An estimated 155,000 hatchery trout died nearly instantly when an unexpected amount of sludge from Folsom Dam may have clogged the water intake pipes. Without fresh water the trout were starved for oxygen, resulting in the catastrophic die-off in a matter of minutes.  

The hatchery had already been dealing with less inventory than in year’s past as a result of the statewide drought. Its stocking tallies had already been declining in recent years from 4.3 million pounds of trout in 2008 to 1.6 million pounds this year.

This latest fish holocaust will only make matters worse. The 4-inch Eagle Lake species of rainbow trout was expected to be released soon, Bill Cox, hatchery system manager at the Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Sacramento Bee. 

“That’s a big hit,” Cox told the paper. “Now, we’re going to have to figure out what we’re going to do about it.”

The hatchery is expected to seek relief from the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam where Cox suspects workers changed a pipe recently that hadn’t been used in several years. A bunch of sludge that came out apparently clogged the pipe, which cut off oxygen and fresh water to the fish.

Last year, roughly 1.78 million fishing licenses were sold in California, out of which funds go to hatcheries such as the one in Rancho Cordova.

Photo credit: Dreamstime