Open house for Bennington Fish Hatchery's 100th anniversary


BENNINGTON >> The 100th anniversary of the Bennington Fish Culture Station will be marked this weekend during a statewide "Hatchery Day."

Visitors to the historic site on Saturday will be treated to an open house, educational programming and a tour of the facilities, according to Monty Walker, section chief and fish culture specialist at the hatchery.

The event will be held on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 110 Hatchery Road, off of South Stream Road.

That the local hatchery is turning 100 years old is just one milestone being recognized, according to Adam Miller, fish culture operations manager with Fish & Wildlife. The Roxbury Fish Culture Station, which was damaged during Tropical Storm Irene five years ago and will soon be rebuilt, turns 125.

A lot has changed since fish culturing began, he said. But what hasn't changed is the commitment to restore the population.

"Fish hatcheries are one of the many tools we utilize to make sure the ecosystem is healthy and intact, and that we have good fishing opportunities for anglers," Miller said.

The job sounds easy to some folks, Miller said — just feed the fish a few times a day, and once a year, release them into water. But it takes a lot more know-how to successfully bring fish through their life cycle — from the tiniest of eggs to newly hatched fry and to adult fish that will be stocked in waterways around the state. Everything from water quality and temperature to adequate feeding come into play.

Walker said visitors will learn about the fish life cycle from start to finish. The tour will include the hatchery building, which is typically off limits to visitors. The new batch of eggs hasn't been delivered yet, he said, but there will be some young fingerlings.

Walker said he and his staff had a pretty productive spring and stocked Vermont waterways with more than 83,000 of fish. The mild winter meant they could grow fry a little longer, he said.

The hatchery opened as an experimental fish hatchery in 1916 and grew to a modern, model fish culture station by the 1930s. The facility was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1994. Some buildings at the 118-acre property date back to the hatchery's beginning. Others were Works Progress Administration projects.

The original superintendent's office, built in 1917, is now a visitors' center and office space. Still standing is the original 1917 hatch-house, which houses "fry" in concrete troughs and eggs in incubator trays, and concrete "raceways" and ponds that house older trout.

Today, it's the largest producer of stocked fish for the inland waters of Vermont. Three different type of cold water trout — brook, brown and rainbow — are raised from eggs and stocked in waterways to restore fish populations and for the benefit of anglers. It's gravity-fed by spring water and the South Stream; a maximum of 2.5 million gallons of water flows through the ponds and raceways each day.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and officials from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department recently declared Aug. 6 as "Hatchery Day." In a news release, Shumlin said the state's five hatcheries "play an integral role in the successful management of the state's fisheries." Each hatchery will host open houses on Saturday.

Shumlin continued: "They're also a symbol of Vermont's commitment to our natural resources, a tremendous tool for educating the public about the environment, and a significant part of the state's history."

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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