A Day in the Life of a Hatchery Employee
By Gabriel Betty, Fisheries Biologist
The season begins in late winter. Every morning the air is crisp, every breath condenses in the chilled air and a blustery wind bites into your exposed skin. The day opens with a discussion in the hatchery crew office. “The list says 1,000 rainbows, 300 browns, 300 brook trout and 200 goldens for the first load folks and another 1,800 rainbows for the afternoon run, let’s get to it.” Some of the staff leave the office wearing waders/rain gear and head off to begin counting the 1,000 here and the 300 there; two others head off to begin pumping 41-degree water onto a tanker truck. Every morning begins just like this; it is trout stocking season.
Each spring the Division of Fish & Wildlife Hatchery staff stock thousands upon thousands of trout throughout Rhode Island for anglers of all ages to enjoy. To prepare for the trout fishing season, all trout waters are closed to fishing from the first of March until mid-April. It is during this closure when the hatchery staff are literally on the road every day stocking waters across Rhode Island. Once this initial stocking of over 100 locations, the anticipated trout fishing season opens the second Saturday of April. After a long winter, trout fishing is an excellent way to reconnect with family and friends outside of the house and beside Rhode Island’s beautiful freshwater streams, rivers and ponds.
Back at the hatchery, water gets pumped into each compartment on the stocking truck which holds over 1,500 gallons of water. Air-stones are turned on in the compartments so that there is constant fresh oxygen for the fish to breath during their time on the truck. Once filled with water, the stocking truck heads to the various raceways at the hatchery where counted fish are ready to be netted onto the truck. After the fish are on the truck, there is a final check and the loaded stocking truck, weighing just below 50,000 lbs, is on the road.
There are total of four state-run fish hatcheries here in Rhode Island: Arcadia Warwater Hatchery and Carolina Trout Hatchery in Richmond, Perryville Hatchery in South Kingstown and Lafayette Trout Hatchery in North Kingstown. Arcadia is a warm water hatchery with kettle ponds which can grow pike, bass and other pan fish; the other three hatcheries are cool water systems which allow the growth of salmonids which include trout and salmon species. These cool water flow-thru hatchery systems have constant water pumping typically ranging from 38 to 52 F, depending on the hatchery and water source. The species grown at these hatcheries include brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), brown trout (Salmo trutta), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), golden rainbow trout (O. mykiss), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and landlocked Atlantic “Sebago” salmon (S. salar sebago). Recently, the hatcheries have even raised the hybrid tiger trout which is a cross between the brook trout and the brown trout.
After a quick ride, the stocking truck arrives at its first destination, Carbuncle pond. The truck goes down the boat ramp and the airbrakes are pulled to keep the behemoth in place. Large tubes are attached to one compartment at a time and the hatch is opened releasing hundreds of fish down the chute and into the pond. By the time the truck is empty, the fish begin exploring their new home or school together until they are acclimated to their new home. Before long, slowly but surely, people begin to fishing the very spot that was stocked with fish. It’s always amazing how it seems that people literally come out of the woodwork to go fishing. It’s as if they knew well that spot would be stocked on that particular day. However, it’s back to the hatcheries again and time for a second load of fish to be stocked and for people to enjoy.
Despite the challenges over the past 20 months, the one constant in Rhode Island has been our ability to raise fish for our angling public. Fishing continues to be an excellent opportunity to enjoy the local waters, outdoor adventures with friends/family and even a chance to catch a meal! In 2020 and 2021, we saw a huge rise in our fishing population and a huge appreciation for our efforts. We cannot wait to continue communicating with our anglers and sharing our love of trout with the public in 2022!
For more information about Designated Trout Waters, Trout Stocking Map, Stocking Updates, Opening day, fishing license/trout stamps or even fishing classes/events; check out our website at http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries/troutwaters.php and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RIFishwildlife/. Additionally, it’s important to check to see if certain bodies of water are (1) Fly-fishing only, (2) Kids only (14 years or younger) and (3) Wheelchair accessible.