The beginning of spring in Upstate New York is a beautiful thing. Spring is coming! Last March about this time, we decided to break out of our winter hibernation hole and go for a drive in the country. My youngest son wanted to go fishing that day (he is a fishing maniac– he even reads fishing magazines), but no one else did. So we did the next best thing, for a fish freak: we visited a fish hatchery.
Our choices were whittled down to the hatchery in Rome or in Van Hornesville. We opted for Van Hornesville; perhaps some other day we’ll see what Rome is like. If you are a fish freak, you can find out more about New York State hatcheries at the dec.state.ny.us website.
Van Hornesville stocks only Rainbow Trout, a beautiful fish. And yummy. The action starts here, in the Nursery:
The tanks were swarming with billions of teeny-tiny fish. The place reeked something fierce, too. Outside, various muddy paths led to large tanks with medium-sized trout.
There are a total of 12 pools, most of them are filled with the medium-sized fish. Click the photo for a larger one from Flickr.com.
The fish were irresistible. Some of the kids tried to grab one. Rrrrright! These buggers were slippery. The water was very cold. My son said some of the fish tried to nibble his hand with their beak-like snouts.
The fish were a great, big squirming mass of brown fish. When I tapped the pool’s concrete wall with my boot, the entire mass moved in unison away from the wall. The fish were amazingly active. Hundreds of them flagellated just below the surface of the water. Some leaped from the water, showing off their pink flanks and brown freckles.
Wandering further, we came to an employee of the hatchery (there are three who work here). It looked like he was making a big pot of soup.
He was actually cleaning the pool of bacterial debris, which had accumulated in the water pipes. The water was a brown swirling mass of gooey debris. Ugh. The employee, Mr. D, said there were fish in there. We waited for the water to clear, and then we saw them. BIG MONSTER fish!
I tried to take a picture of the one who kept coming close to the surface. The photo is not so hot, but maybe you can see the fish better if you enlarge the photo.
Their mouths were large white traps, snapping open and closed as they swam. As they swam, they reminded me of the movements a shark makes as it swims in the deep. Some were allowing the swirling current to drag them backwards. Others were quite aggressive, bonking the slower fish out of the way. I’d say the fish were a good ten to twelve pounds, and maybe a yard long. Some had very bright pink sides. You could see the beautiful color even through the murky water. They looked delicious.
We talked with Mr. D who was more than happy to tell us everything we wanted to know about the fish.
The Van Hornesville hatchery raise these trout to distribute them into lakes and streams, local and even as far away as Long Island. The employees do become familiar the fish they have raised, sometimes becoming attached to them and giving them names. They also take delight in surprising unsuspecting local fisherman by dumping these monster trout into local ponds. A fisherman might just be out fishing for sunfish or perch, and snag a whopper trout instead! He told us that he once caught one of these Rainbows when fishing in Canadarago Lake and was shocked to measure it at 44 inches.
Mr. D told us one story about encountering a fisherman who had just pulled an enormous trout from a local pond. The fisherman lifted the great fish from his bucket to show him the prize. Mr. D promptly recognized this fish that he’d cared for since a fry. Mr. D yelled, “That’s ole Leatherback!” taking the fisherman completely aback. In the local diner that night, the fish find was the talk of the town.
It was a nice visit, even for a fish hatchery! Certainly this was no fanciful outing, but it was so good to be outside again and to drive on clear roads with the sun shining! From the hatchery, we ventured on to a few other places. But these narratives will have to wait, because I am going to get to bed in a timely fashion tonight! More to come.