ELKINS, W.Va. — Although Shavers Fork through the Bowden area ran out of its banks this week, there was no damage to the Bowden Fish Hatchery. That’s the word from Jim Hedrick, Hatchery Programs Director for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
“There was no loss of fish at all at Bowden and I think there was also a rumor about Reed’s Creek Hatchery as well and no fish were lost there either,”Hedrick explained. “It’s all a rumor. I don’t want to discourage people from fishing, I’m sure there are still fish available but we did not have a washout at the hatchery.”
Social media was buzzing with “reports” and pictures of damage along the stream. A number of campers were flooded, a nearby bridge was precariously close to being covered in water, and equipment already in place for the spring and summer season had to be rapidly moved, but the reports of fugitive trout turned out to be fake news.
“We had a good bit of water and sometimes that water pools in the lower end of the hatchery since it doesn’t exit to the river very well,” Hedrick said. “But there was no fish loss, however if you follow social media, (there were claims) fish had escaped everywhere.”
Located along the water, hatchery managers are keenly aware of high water threats and how to minimize the impact. In the case of the Bowden Hatchery, mangers simply moved fish upstream into the upper end raceways until the water receded. The level was fairly high, but didn’t come close along Shaver’s Fork to the historical flood of 1985 which did wipe out the hatchery and its fish inventory.
“During 1985 there were issues there and a couple of years ago when the southern part of the state had some high water the federal hatchery at White Sulphur Springs did lose fish in the event,” said Hedrick.
Stocking schedules continued even with the high water. Hedrick said the flooded streams don’t impact the fish. The only impact on the stocking is when there are problems with access to the streams or roads are washed out.
“It does allow fish to spread out. They don’t ‘wash out’ to the ocean or anything like that,” laughed Hedrick. “Secondly, if we skip too many stockings for high water, we do so many stockings each week in the spring, we’d never be able to get all of that made up.”