Friday, August 12, 2011

The Erwin Fish Hatchery

Another place we made sure to visit while we were on vacation at Rock Creek Recreation Area was a spot we kept passing on our ways to visit waterfalls, hiking trails, lakes, etc. It was the Erwin Fish Hatchery. This is one of our oldest continuously operating fish hatcheries, having been established in 1894. They work exclusively on one type of fish: the rainbow trout. These days it's considered an invasive species in many of the streams and lakes into which it has been introduced, but where it is native and where it does not push out native types, it's a great game fish. While this hatchery is located in Tennessee, it sends its eggs and fingerlings to fisheries all over the USA.

The grounds of the hatchery were impressive, and I even managed to notice one large old hemlock growing on the property. It has been treated, and none too soon, I think, but it looks to be recovering from the adelgid infestation. It would be sad to lose this old tree. Especially considering that it offers the only shade in the corner of the grounds where it stands.

The lab section of the hatchery was rather smaller than I expected, but functional and obviously effective, considering how far and wide they ship to other fisheries. Outside the holding tanks were packed with older fish, since the fingerlings seem to have all been kept in the smaller tanks indoors.

If you're in the Erwin Tennessee area, make sure you visit the fish hatchery. It was quite the educational experience, and my hat's off to the employees there. Not only are they doing good work for sportsmen, they were awfully friendly and eager to answer all of our questions.

After touring the small museum, we strolled out into the indoor lab section. Here Carole is looking down at a huge vat of fertilized rainbow trout eggs.

The "white" looking eggs are unfertilized and will be discarded. The others are fertile and will produce trout.

Some of the runs of fingerlings.

Looking back across the lab. Sometimes all the pools are full, but when we were there only a few contained young trout.

This poorly stitched panorama was made to show the extent of part of the outside pool section. The fabric domes were there to reflect sunlight and to keep the water cooled. It has been a very warm summer and rainbow trout are a cool water species.

The contents of part of one pool. There were plenty of breeding rainbow trout at this facility.

The hemlock I saw growing on the grounds.

I had Carole take this one of me with the hemlock for reference with a human figure. The tree looks rather sickly from this angle, but actually it was putting out a lot of new, vigorous growth, so I think it will survive.

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