Submitted by guest blogger Janelle Hoh
If you've been searching for something different to do in Northern New York, the bait is over (This expose is a great oppor-tuna-ty to showcase fish-related puns). With a genuine interest and keen sense of adventure, I recently set off to visit the state Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Chateaugay Fish Hatchery, located about 15 miles east of Malone, just outside the town of Chateaugay.
The popularity of fishing in the North Country cannot be understated. From the St. Regis River to the depths of Upper Chateaugay Lake to Lake Champlain, the variety of fish species attracts anglers from across the state and beyond. But where do all the fish come from? Truth be told, a lot of fish caught are raised in hatcheries across New York state. The DEC operates twelve hatcheries in total, with two located in the North Country. Each hatchery specializes in raising different fish species. The Chateaugay Fish Hatchery was started from a field station in 1925 and today produces over 500,000 fish each year.
One fish, two fish, thousands of fish
The Chateaugay Fish Hatchery sits back off Route 11, isolated from road noises and surrounded by protective forests. I wasn't sure what to expect upon arrival. Further investigation of the facility revealed more fish than I had ever seen and I learned some really neat things along the way.
Why so many fish, you ask? Each year, the DEC releases about one million pounds of fish into more than 1,200 public streams, lakes, ponds, and rivers throughout the state. Their purpose is twofold: to restore native species to waters they historically occupied and to enhance recreational fishing opportunities. With such a large task at hand, it becomes clear why there are fish around every corner here!
What fish are there?
At this hatchery, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and lake trout are raised. Of particular interest, Chateaugay is the only hatchery in the state that raises the Adirondack strain of lake trout, which are stocked in lakes throughout the Adirondacks and in some waters in the Catskills as well.
Aside from brook trout, lake trout are the only other native trout in the Adirondacks. These awesome fish inhabit deep, cold waters and often require assistance from guides or local knowledge to locate. Lake trout are slow-growing, late to mature, and quite susceptible to overfishing. The program at the Chateaugay Fish Hatchery actually harvests lake trout eggs from Raquette Lake, located over an hour south in the town of Tupper Lake, to raise at the hatchery. Inside the main building, I found a row of holding tanks with thousands of fingerlings -- young fish 3 to 5 inches long. Among the thousands of fingerlings were the infamous lake trout and brook trout.
I'm sure we've all heard one or two fishermen's tales in our lives, about the one HUGE fish that got away. Don't worry -- the fish at the Chateaugay Fish Hatchery aren't as elusive. Multiple viewing tanks are available throughout the property, so you can get a good look (and a picture!) of the fish. You might even see some mature hatchery fish at educational events around Franklin County!
Now is the perfect time to go!
The Chateaugay Fish Hatchery is open year- round, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day! Depending on when you visit, different ages of fish, from eggs to adults, will be showcased. Who knows, you might even get to meet a fish that you catch later on!