Hatcheries are the lifeblood of sport fishing industry

The Seth Green State Hatchery located on Spring Brook in Caledonia County, New York, is the oldest fish hatchery in the country Established in 1864, the hatchery continues to provide brook, brown and rainbow trout as it has for more than a century.

There are currently dozens of other state and county fish hatcheries located all across New York, in addition to the numerous private hatcheries.

Without the hatcheries, there would be no public sport fishing industry. American anglers often fail to realize how lucky they are. Hatcheries provide fish for stocking in the public lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and even the brooks and creeks.

In many countries, freshwater angling opportunities are not readily available to the general public. In order to fish on a freshwater stream, they must rent a “beat” on private waters. Typically, a private beat consists of a 200- or 300-meter section of a privately stocked river or stream. The fee for renting a private beat, which usually includes the services of a ghillie, who is a guide responsible for choosing the flies, netting the fish and administering the “Priest,” a small club that’s used to send the vanquished fish to the great hatchery in the sky.

The popularity of a single day of angling on a private estate has effectively pushed the cost of catching a single Atlantic salmon to more than $15,000 (if you’re lucky enough to hook one).

Fortunately, the majority of our public rivers, ponds, streams and lakes provide the angling public with outstanding opportunities to fish for trout, salmon and a host of warm-water species.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation operates more than a dozen fish hatcheries across the state, in addition to the numerous county and private hatcheries that also provide fish for private stocking. New York’s hatcheries are an important component of the sport fishing industry. The Caledonia fish hatchery is a historic fish hatchery and national historic district located in Caledonia in Livingston County.

Closer to home, the Essex County Hatchery in Crown Point provides more than 25,000 trout annually for stocking in local streams, rivers and ponds.

To the north, the Chateaugay Hatchery in northern Franklin County has been rearing a heritage strain of lake trout from Raquette Lake, as well as brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout. The hatchery continues to provide the state with a domestic strain/Temiscamie hybrid brook trout that is stocked extensively in Adirondack lakes and ponds. Annual production is approximately 90,000 pounds.

The Adirondack Fish Hatchery in Saranac Inn specializes in rearing land-locked Atlantic salmon for statewide distribution. The facility annually produces about 30,000 pounds of salmon, which are stocked as yearlings about six inches long.

DEC operates 12 fish hatcheries across the state. Each of the facilities specializes in raising one or more species of fish. While the cost of raising and stocking the fish is considerable, it is easily eclipsed by the annual economic impact achieved by hosting traveling anglers, fishing tournaments and the endless memories that can be achieved while fishing with kids.

Raining trout

New York has a long and illustrious history of rearing and stocking fish in the numerous streams, rivers, lakes and ponds all across the state. The state has been stocking fish, primarily trout, for well over a century.

Angling provides fishermen with a safe, simple and readily available source of positive recreation. State hatcheries were the first to develop refrigerated stocking containers, which allowed trains to transport fish for stocking across the region.

Often, forest rangers would enlist the services of local guides and sportsmen to help with the stocking effort, lugging fingerling trout in Indian Tanks that were used for fighting fires. Filled tanks weighed about 60 pounds.

Times certainly have changed. Instead of hauling trout for stocking in refrigerated railroad box cars and Indian Tanks as the old conservation department once did, the DEC now stocks trout fingerlings in some of the most remote recesses of the region, often with the aid of a helicopter.

My initial introduction to DEC’s heli-stocking program occurred while I was fishing with an old friend, many years ago. We paddled more than 12 miles up Lows Lake, before portaging off to a more remote beaver flow, known as Fish Pole Pond.

Although the pond was small — barely 200 feet across at its widest — it was obviously quite deep, as the beaver dam that impounded the water to create the pond was huge. It was about 100 yards long in a crescent shape, and towered more than 25 feet tall at the outlet.

We were careful as we slid the canoe into the still waters. No banging or bouncing, it was dead silence and late in the day. As we pushed off from shore, the pond began to stir with rising fish dimpling in ever direction. The first few rises were near the outlet, and as we approached, the fish were actually leaping out of the water to take flies out of the air.

There was so much action, we could toss a fly or lure in any direction and it would receive an immediate strike. The only sound was the clap of trout slapping on the surface and our own laughter.

We had boated about a half-dozen, 2-pounders when the dull thud-thud-thud of a helicopter could be heard off in the distance.  We kept casting and catching fish, as the chop-chop grew closer and we watched the helicopter crest the long line of towering pines on the far shores.

It continued to the center of the pond, where it hovered about 20 feet above the disturbed waters. In a flash, the chopper began raining fish.

Then it was over. As quickly as it had appeared, the chopper disappeared beyond the tall pines. We sat in disbelief for a moment, before returning to the task at hand.

However, we soon realized it was a lost cause. Between the chop of the prop, the dumping of thousands hundreds of fingerlings, and our own hardy laughter, it was obvious the trout were thoroughly spooked.

We decided to pack up our gear and return to camp, where we enjoyed a warm fire, some fresh brook trout fillets and a few cold beers.

It is important for backcountry anglers to remember that the quality of a backwoods fishery is inversely proportional to the distance from the nearest road. In plain English, the more difficult the means of access, the better the fishing.  


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