Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 17, 2013

Steelhead die in DNR weir

MANISTEE — About 200 steelhead trout died in the Little Manistee River weir after a power failure drained the facility’s main raceway.

Scott Heintzelman, technician supervisor with the Department of Natural Resource’s weir, said local anglers reported Saturday that water had drained out of the facility and fish were stranded.

“Saturday we had 184 dead fish in the main raceway,” he said. “Sunday, we found some that were stressed out and others we just missed. The final total was at 211.”

The weir is used in the spring to block steelhead from their upstream run to take their eggs to stock state fish hatcheries. Heintzelman said the egg take will begin as scheduled today and be unaffected by the fish kill.

He said a power disruption shut off two pumps used to fill the facility. The emergency generator system was not triggered by the disruption.

“The problem lies somewhere between those two things,” Heintzelman said. “We’re adding some different mechanisms to those boxes so those tolerances are a little wider.”

Mark Knee, a fishing guide with Schmidt Outfitters in Norman, said the DNR worked fast to re-fill the facility and avert a larger problem.

“It’s nothing good to have these things happen, but it’s not of great concern,” he said.

Heintzelman said cold river water and early warning of the problem meant the dead fish could be donated to the Manistee community kitchen and Lions Club.

“As bad as the number sounds, we got fairly lucky,” he said. “There were another 4,000 to 5,000 fish in the ponds that we were able to save. The anglers’ quick call basically saved those fish.”

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