Keeping fish stocking on schedule

Americans are getting used to things being in short supply. When it comes to fish, however, no need to worry. Our dedicated employees have you covered.

Fishing is one of America’s favorite outdoor activities, ranking near the top in terms of the number of people who participate. One in 7 Americans takes to the water with a rod and a reel to fish, adding $150 billion to local and regional economies every year.

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Left: Nothing like a day of fishing. USFWS Right: Fishing on the dock. USFWS

We fish in the city and in the ‘burbs; we fish in the country and “away from it all”; we fish from a boat or a bridge, sitting on a dock, standing on the shoreline, or wading in a river. Whether using a worm, a minnow, or a fly, fishing offers relaxation, camaraderie, and — if we’re lucky — a fresh catch for dinner.

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A face only a fish enthusiast could love — Lake Ontario lake trout. USFWS

Not your typical year

Our national fish hatcheries — including 11 in the Northeast — restore and maintain healthy fish populations for the American public through carefully planned rearing and stocking programs.

Fish culture is an art and a science — fish must be large enough to thrive on their own once placed in the wild and released before they outgrow the hatchery. Overcrowding can cause stress and disease, jeopardizing the stocking program. Careful planning is crucial, and timing is everything.

This year started like any other. In early spring, we had juvenile lake trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in Pennsylvania and Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in Vermont just about ready to stock. Their destinations? Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Lake Champlain.

We were also set to spawn rainbow trout at the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery in West Virginia and ship their eggs to other hatcheries for state and tribal fishing programs across the country.

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Mike Whited, Bioscience Technician at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery in West Virginia, oversees a newly trained student volunteer as she spawns rainbow trout. USFWS

Then things changed.

“We have been coordinating with the states, tribes, Great Lakes Fish Commission, and Canada for decades to restore the largest native salmonid in the lakes — lake trout,” says Bill Archambault, Lower Great Lakes Complex Manager. “But this year, given all that was going on with the coronavirus in March and April and travel restrictions, we worked with the states to come up with a plan that would keep everyone safe and ensure the fish got stocked out.”

The show must go on

“We decided that we could get the work safely done ourselves in Lake Erie, by stocking fish from the shoreline rather than using state boats as we typically do.”

To maintain safe social distances, staff from Allegheny National Fish Hatchery set out in multiple trucks and made multiple trips in April, stocking 200,000 lake trout in Lake Erie.

Fun facts: The New York state record for lake trout was caught off of Dunkirk in 2003 in Lake Erie. The fish weighed 41.5 lbs and measured 42.5 inches. Because the fish was tagged, we can trace the fish back to an Allegheny National Fish Hatchery stocking event in 1985, meaning it was more than 18 years old. It is not unheard of to find 50 year old lake trout swimming in the Great Lakes.

The Pennsylvania state record for largest fish caught in Lake Erie is a 31-pound lake trout caught in 2019; the fish was stocked by a national fish hatchery.

In May, our Allegheny and Eisenhower hatcheries will truck 320,000 lake trout to Lake Ontario to be stocked in coordination with New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), meeting our federal commitments to state, Canadian, and tribal partners, and to the American public.

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This lake trout could be yours! Stocked as a juvenile by the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery, biologists caught this fish during routine monitoring of the lake trout fishery. USFWS

Eisenhower staff also stocked 94,000 landlocked Atlantic salmon in Lake Champlain in April with help from NYDEC and will stock another 30,000 in the fall.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state agencies, universities, and other members of the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative have been working to restore landlocked Atlantic salmon in Lake Champlain since the early 1970s. In 2017, adult landlocked salmon returned to the Winooski River in Vermont to spawn for the first time in 150 years. USFWS

In West Virginia, staff at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery wrapped up spawning one of their strains of rainbow trout in March. In the next couple of months, a little more than two million eggs will be shipped throughout the country to support state and tribal recreational fishing programs.

They will spawn a second strain of rainbow trout this summer, shipping another six million eggs. In total, 11 states and four tribes receive rainbow trout eggs from the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery.

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What’s for dinner? How about freshly fried trout you caught yourself? USFWS

In times like these, we treasure favorite pastimes like fishing that offer relaxation and comfort. Our staff are making sure the fish will be there for you.

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Catherine Gatenby is a tap-dancing biologist turned communications coordinator for our fisheries program. She grew up in Minnesota surrounded by lakes and rivers and music–everything her family did involved music, dancing, fishing or swimming. Some day she plans to write about a real “river dance.”

Conserving the Nature of the Northeast

We conserve nature in the northeast U.S.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Written by

Conserving wildlife and habitats from Maine to Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Conserving the Nature of the Northeast

We conserve nature in the northeast U.S. for the benefit of wildlife and the American people. Love your natural and wild places! Explore the world around you by hiking, fishing, hunting, and volunteering. More info at fws.gov/northeast

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Written by

Conserving wildlife and habitats from Maine to Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Conserving the Nature of the Northeast

We conserve nature in the northeast U.S. for the benefit of wildlife and the American people. Love your natural and wild places! Explore the world around you by hiking, fishing, hunting, and volunteering. More info at fws.gov/northeast

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