Essex County Fish Hatchery workers in Crown Point look over a 3-year-old rainbow trout as they prepare for spring stocking.
The Essex County Fish Hatchery in Crown Point is getting ready for another busy spring. Soon, hatchery workers will begin stocking local waters with thousands of trout.
This year the hatchery plans to stock approximately 47,000 trout throughout 65 bodies of water in the county, making it one of the most unique and ambitious stocking programs in the northeastern United States.
Essex County assumed ownership of the state-run hatchery in 1982 and it’s been providing a population of trout in local waters ever since.
Hatchery superintendent Steven LaMere has seen a lot of progress made in his 24 years in charge at the facility. LaMere launched the hatcheries trophy trout program after he was hired in 1990. These trophy fish are 3-year-old rainbow and brown trout over 18 inches in length. Since the hatchery started this program LaMere noticed an immediate impact on tourism in the area.
“Sport fishermen started popping up from other states to fish these waters,” said LaMere.
The new program also stocks several area waters to sponsor children’s fishing tournaments throughout the region. Tournaments like the Roe Pond Invitational in Witherbee, where seniors and disabled residents also have access became quite popular. Westport, Keene, Willsboro, Newcomb and other towns have also had children’s derbies where these fish were stocked.
Prior to the trophy program, the hatchery primarily raised yearling trout.
Of the 47,000 tout to be stocked this year, approximately 17,000 are yearling brook trout, 26,000 are 2-year-old rainbow trout and brown trout and around 3,600 are 3-year-old, most of which are rainbow trout.
At some point most hatcheries, including state-run facilities, have had a disease outbreak of some kind. Essex County’s hatchery has been certified disease free, year in, and year out.
“We’re very proud of the quality and quantity of fish we’ve raised for more than two decades,” LaMere said. “Our hatchery has managed to be successful with very little funding.”
The need for a hatchery comes from a variety of issues such as over fishing and habitat loss due to storm run off. Stocking these waters with trout off sets the natural reproduction that occurs in streams.
“The importance of having a local hatchery is having a connection with local people,” LaMere said. “For decades people of all ages have come into our facility to learn about trout.”
Though there is still need for more funding for rehabbing the facility and basic upkeep, the hatchery has managed to get by over the years, spending what they can on their most pressing needs.
There have been rumblings over the years about the hatchery’s future, but not lately. LaMere said, lately, he hasn’t heard any discussion about the facility not being around, and “that’s great for our area.”