How many business, governmental or social programs start up and continue running for a century and a half?
The Caledonia Hatchery on North Street in that Livingston County village south of Rochester will next year celebrate 150 years of continuously rearing and supplying fish stock. Hatchery manager Alan Mack happily says that this facility is the oldest hatchery in New York State and in the entire Western Hemisphere and is now on the New York State Registry of Historic Places.
Since fish-catching guru Seth Green set up a trout-rearing facility on this site in 1864, the Caledonia Hatchery has reared a variety of fish species.
On Tuesday, I visited this hatchery to see how things run and chat with Mack about the fish production this facility on Spring Creek provides for anglers in Western New York and across the state.
“That main building was designed and built by Seth Green’s son in 1870,” Mack pointed out as we watched staffers pump 2-year-old trout from ponds into tank trucks for deliveries near and far.
Earlier that morning, a truckload of 2-year-old brown trout headed to the Catskill Hatchery for distribution in that area; we also watched as another truck was loaded for a delivery of yearlings and 2-year-olds to Cattaraugus Creek in Erie County.
Mack noted that virtually all of the 2-year-old brown trout used in the DEC’s stocking program, fish on average measuring 13 to 15 inches, are produced at the Caledonia Hatchery.
Weighing those fish could be work-intensive and harmful to fish if they were taken from the water for measurement. Hatcheries around the state use a displacement device on each tank to weigh fish as they are pumped from outdoor ponds or hand-loaded into truck tanks.
The tubular displacement device is set at a level in the tank and as fish enter the tank their bodies displace the water on a scale. “An inch on the scale indicates 80 pounds of fish,” Mack said.
Fish are pre-sampled for size so that the weight need is known for an accurate head count. Area hatcheries cooperate in the production of fish for stocking.
Recently, the Rome Hatchery suffered a die-off and the Caledonia Hatchery had to take in extra 1-year-old brown trout this year that would have been reared at Rome. Those fish were reared in one of the 18 ponds at the east side of the grounds.
Inside, a series of above-ground raceways are home to brown trout fingerlings, measuring about two inches each that were hatched and started at the Randolph Hatchery.
“Conditions at Randolph are ideal there for starting brown trout,” Mack said. He added that water from Spring Creek at Caledonia is well suited for growing fish stock after hatching.
“The hard water here is good for a fish’s immune system,” he explained, which provides a good growing medium for the brown trout that will spend more than two years in hatchery ponds before being stocked.
Disease control through careful food-source selection is critical, but nature can be even more unkind to young fish growing in outdoor ponds.
Birds can be a problem. We noticed a couple of mature trout with apparent gun shot wounds on their backs. “That’s from herons,” Mack noted.
Leading among predators at the hatchery is the great blue heron. “Herons can take as much as 10 percent of our stock in a year,” Mack said of the 500,000 fish, which totals about 170,000 pounds of fish produced in one year, counting fingerlings, 1- and 2-year-old trout.
As with hatcheries across the state, upgrades to buildings, ponds and raceways are essential, especially at Caledonia where the public is invited daily and the hatchery is preparing for its anniversary next year. Anglers benefit from the big brown trout that appear in streams, ponds, rivers and inland lakes each year.
The public enjoys free access to the Caledonia Hatchery each day of the week. The hatchery, around the corner from Genesee County Village, is open to walk-in visitors for self-guided tours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day of the week.
Alan Mack conducts tours of the hatchery for school and community groups by appointment. Mack asks planners to call or email a week or two before a scheduled date to confirm a guided tour. For scheduling details, call (585) 538-6300 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.