Sunburst Trout Farms, a hatchery located 12 miles outside of Canton, has been robbed of 600 pounds of trout, according to co-owner Sally Eason.
The loss was detected this morning, Thursday, Sept. 30, when Eason’s crew went to “clear the raceway” (read, harvest the trout) for the day’s orders, Eason says. “We always know the count of what’s in what raceway,” says Eason, whose high-quality trout products like filets and roe are routinely sourced by local chefs and have have been featured in the pages of Gourmet Magazine.
Eason says the first clue that the business had been robbed was discovered yesterday morning. Making his usual rounds of the property, Eason’s husband found some large nets, some trout heads and entrails lying on the grass next to the water, she says. Figuring someone had jumped the fence, netted a couple of trout and cleaned them on the spot before making off with their bounty, the Easons dismissed the evidence. The extent of the loss was not realized until today, when Eason says the production manager got into the water and discovered that the entire harvest, save perhaps two dozen trout, had been stolen.
How does someone make off with the equivalent of three heavyweight-boxers of wriggling fish? Especially when the property is fenced, gated and locked? “Good question,” says Eason. “You could not possibly carry them from the raceways over the fence or gate. … I have so many questions, my head is whirring. It’s too intense. I haven’t felt anything like this since the fire; it’s reminiscent of that feeling.”
Eason is referencing a 2006 incident when a deliberately set fire ravaged her trout production facility. That August, thieves liberated almost 400 pounds of roe from the facility’s freezers, eggs that weren’t high-quality enough for distribution as caviar that Eason had saved to start a cosmetics line. The thieves allegedly piled the caviar into a truck, torching any remaining evidence on the way out — but first stopped to put some treasured photos of Eason’s father and Sunburst founder Dick Jennings out of harm’s way.
The police found this to be a little, well, fishy, and questioned the Easons extensively about the incident, before clearing them of all suspicion after finding them to be woefully — and quite unfortunately — underinsured.
Though unlikely, it’s entirely possible that the same criminal has targeted Sunburst once again, says Eason.
“The person who [started] the fire was never caught, and those people obviously had an inside track, too. I can’t imagine there would be a connection, but weirder things have happened, I guess,” says Eason.
She adds that the only evidence left behind, save the missing trout and nets, is a makeshift scoop that someone constructed out of a vinegar bottle for the purpose of scooping feed and throwing it to the fish to entice them to the surface — it seems the suspects knew what they were doing.
Eason says she’s contacted all local fishmongers and informed them of the theft, just in case the suspects are looking for a nearby place to unload several hundred pounds of fish.
Anyone with information connected to this incident is asked to call Sunburst Trout Farms at 648-3010.