Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 24, 2012

Cause of fish deaths still under investigation

Close to 6,000 fish died at Platte River Fish Hatchery

BEULAH — The investigation into the deaths of 5,700 coho salmon at the Platte River Fish Hatchery in Benzie county is ongoing, and officials said the incident won't impact their salmon egg harvest.

Investigators found 5,130 adult salmon and 570 small jacks, or yearlings, dead on Oct. 5 at the hatchery. Near the site was fishing line and large treble hooks. Manager Edward Eisch continues to suspect poachers were to blame, but no suspects have been identified.

"It's an ongoing investigation," Eisch said. "My assumption is the same, that poachers came in and were snatching and got the fish all worked up."

The fish blocked a fresh water source, depriving them of oxygen, Eisch said.

The hatchery, which has been the state's main salmon hatchery since 1972, is scheduled to wrap up an egg harvest today.

"We have ample fish to meet egg needs," Eisch said.

This is good news for Michigan and other states. The hatchery is the main egg take station for coho salmon in the Upper Great Lakes and provides eggs to other states including Illinois and Wisconsin.

"We were fortunate to have this happen in a year where the run was as large as it is," Eisch said. "It's larger than we've seen in recent years. That's the only positive to this."

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