Three men charged with killing about 150,000 trout at the Armstrong Fish Hatchery say they didn’t intend any harm. Still, police estimate the damage to the McDowell County hatchery at $150,000. Jack Brown, 23, Gabriel Miller, 21, and Adam Mitchell, 20, all of Marion, are all charged with misdemeanor polluting of hatchery water, misdemeanor robbing or injuring of hatcheries and aquatics, and misdemeanor injury to personal property.
The men visited the hatchery Saturday evening and tampered with a water valve, cutting off the flow of water and depriving oxygen to thousands of trout.
“They were on the scene in that area, just messing with things they shouldn’t be messing with,” said Richelle Bailey, public information assistant for the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office. “They didn’t know what it would do, until later they saw on the news that they had killed 150,000 fish.”
The incident was reported at 7:52 p.m. Saturday, she said.
The hatchery is not on private property. “Anyone can pass through there to national forest land, so it’s open,” said Bailey.
The Armstrong Fish Hatchery hatches and raises trout in indoor egg- and fingerling-rearing facilities, then transfers them to outdoor raceways, fed by the Armstrong Creek watershed. The hatchery stocks the public waters of 11 counties in the northern section of North Carolina’s mountain region.
The men are being held under $1,500 secured bond, with a court date set for April 29. Calls to the hatchery were not immediately returned.