25,000 trout die at Maryland's state fish hatchery when someone stopped dissolved oxygen from reaching them. Photos: Maryland Natural Resources Police

Police Looking for Person Responsible for Fish Kill at Md. State-Run Hatchery

At Maryland’s primary fish hatchery, one small action caused 25,000 fish to die. Police are asking for the public’s help to find for the person responsible.

Albert Powell Fish Hatchery is in Hagerstown, Maryland, fed by the state’s second-largest spring that averages 3,400 gallons per minute. Owned and operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), it hatches more than 600,000 trout eggs annually.

The state relies on the fish hatchery to supply trout for the DNR spring and fall stocking seasons, the Youth Fishing Rodeo program, and “Put and Grow” juvenile stocking requested by fisheries biologists. DNR spokesman Gregg Bortz tells us that fish raised there are used largely to stock in Maryland’s central region, in counties east of Allegany.

Maryland Natural Resources Police say that sometime between 11:30 Sunday morning and 7:30 Monday morning, someone closed a discharge valve in one of the raceways at the hatchery. The raceway is housed with a regenerative blower to supply adequate dissolved oxygen levels to the fish that are kept there.

Employees last checked the raceways Sunday morning, April 16. On Monday, April 17, employees discovered the valve had been closed, blocking oxygen from getting through. 25,000 trout fingerlings, which had hatched in October 2022, died from lack of oxygen.

The estimated value of the fish loss is $75,000. The fish were to be stocked for the 2024 trout season.

Bay Bulletin asked whether police believe someone did this on purpose. Bortz says, “NRP is exploring all possibilities. It appears to have been intentional.”

Natural Resources Police ask anyone with information about the incident to call OFC. Jeremy Miller at 410-260-8888.

-Meg Walburn Viviano