Thursday, August 10, 2000

Muskie back in Ky. River


Fish restocked after massive kill in May

By Mark Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Slowly, the water poured out of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources truck backed down a boat ramp into the murky, green Kentucky River. Some small shadows could be seen interrupting the flow.

        There were 25, nine-inch muskellunge dumped into the river at Frankfort on Wednesday morning. Similar numbers were let into the pools behind dams 1-3, farther downstream.

        It was a small part of a massive undertaking to stock some 1.3 million fish into the lower Kentucky River to replace approximately 227,000 fish lost in a massive kill after a fire at a Wild Turkey distillery warehouse on May 9.

        Ted Crowell, assistant fisheries director for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the differences in numbers tries to take into account natural selection.

        Of the roughly 250,000 fingerling largemouth bass that have already been stocked, Mr. Crowell said relatively few probably survive, with the rest of the 3/4- to 11/2-inch fish serving as food for others.

        Though only 9 inches as they spilled out of the truck into the river, muskie can grow to a few feet long and up to 30 pounds.

        It is one of 11 species that will be restocked, from largemouth bass to several types of catfish.

        Most come from Kentucky's own fish hatcheries in Morehead and Frankfort. The unusual paddlefish will come from a private hatchery. Flathead catfish will be brought in from Louisiana.

        The stocking will continue through next year, but Mr. Crow ell said it will be decades before the fish life in the river returns to what it was. Forty-pound catfish don't grow overnight.

        Not all the fish in the river died as the plume of dead water moved down from the warehouse near Lawrenceburg to the Kentucky River. Many fled to tributaries and moved back to the main stem as the plume passed.

        Wild Turkey's parent company, Austin Nichols, was sent a bill for $499,739 based on the book value of the fish found in samples taken from the kill. Mr. Crowell said there have been negotiations with the distiller. Telephone calls to the company and its Lexington attorneys were not returned on Wednesday.

        But shortly after the bill was presented, Lawrenceburg plant manager Gregg Snyder said it was a shock. Snyder said the bill was based on an arbitrary value placed on the fish, rather than actual costs of restocking.

       



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