Rome, NY (WIBX) - A bacterial disease found at the Rome State Fish Hatchery has forced the Department of Environmental Conservation to destroy 131,000 brown trout and brook trout.

Andy Noyes, a fish pathologist for the DEC, says furunculosis, a highly contagious disease in fish, was the culprit.

"You'll see it in the Great Lakes, but it will be in isolated pockets of salmon, for example," Noyes said. "It doesn't seem to spread, and it doesn't seem to cause too much of a problem in the wild. But, when it gets into a hatchery system, where you have a large assortment of fish in a small area, it'll spread like wildfire."

First seen at the Rome Hatchery in late June, Noyes says workers tried to rehabilitate the fish, but saw marginal results. Last week, the fish were destroyed humanely with carbon monoxide.

Diseases like furunculosis are nothing new to the Rome Hatchery, who last saw the disease in 1996. The group has learned to constantly monitor the area for it and many other infections.

"We have a fairly active surveillance program where we look for a pretty broad assortment of fish diseases," Noyes said. "So, if it was in the vicinity, particularly in our hatchery system, we'd know it. The fact that it popped up here is just really odd."

He says there are numerous ways for the disease to infect fish populations, whether through birds, water carrying the bacteria or through already infected fish who get into the hatchery. In this case, the first fish to become infected were fingerling brown trout shipped up from Virginia during the spring. According to Noyes, those fish are highly susceptible to furunculosis and quickly spread the disease to other fish.

Due to heavy losses, the Rome Hatchery is in a bind, but Noyes says the fishing will continue to be excellent in the Adirondack's lakes and ponds.

"For the 2013 stocking season, we're going to have a shortage coming out of Rome, but in the future we're hoping to get back right to where we were," Noyes said.

In the meantime, the DEC will continue to stock it's Rome strain of trout, which are more resilient to infection and were not effected during the outbreak.