The state Department of Fish and Game’s fish hatcheries help ensure that our state’s waterways are stocked with trout and salmon for fishing. But they also serve another equally important purpose: educating and encouraging the next generation of New Hampshire fishing enthusiasts.
That’s why the state’s six fish hatcheries — in Berlin, Milford, New Durham, New Hampton, Warren and Whitefield — are open to the public throughout the year. Visitors are welcome to drop in, though group visits and guided tours require a reservation. To enhance the experience for visitors, the staff at the Powder Mill Fish Hatchery in New Durham created an education room that’s stocked with information on the hatchery and the work that’s done there.
“If visitors have questions, we encourage them to ask,” said Kevin Dale, the hatchery’s assistant supervisor. “But unfortunately can’t do that all day. If we spent all day answering questions, we’d get behind on the work we need to do here.”
With that in mind, the staff — all of whom are Chapter 47 members — set about converting an unused office into an educational room that visitors can browse at their own pace. The room includes some materials from Fish and Game, but what really makes it complete are the contributions from the hatchery staff — not to mention the work they’ve put into it.
“Every guy here has contributed something,” Dale said.
That’s because all of the fish culturalists on staff there are focused on doing the best job they can with the resources available to them. Whether it’s raising fish or educating visitors, everything they do is geared toward making sure fishing continues to exist in the state as it has for generations.
“Our main objective is to recruit fisherman for the future,” said E.J. Dionne, the hatchery supervisor at Powder Mill.
Achieving that objective requires a great deal of work — “much more than just feeding fish,” Dale notes — and all of it is done in house. Water quality is a constant concern, and Dale and Dionne must both be certified for wastewater treatment. The crew handles all of the site work, including groundskeeping, tree-trimming, carpentry and concrete pouring.
“Each guy brings something different to the place,” Dale said.
One task that’s time consuming but worth it in the long run is protecting the fish from predators such as mammals or birds.
“One heron will probably fly away with 2 pounds of fish and if we let them, they’d come back six or seven times a day,” Dionne said.
To deter these predators as best they can, the staff have rigged up netting over all of the hatchery’s pools, pond and raceways. While the netting doesn’t keep the predators away — on a recent day, a great blue heron could be seen loitering by a pool — it does act as a deterrent. In the long run, that allows the hatchery to do a better job.
“Without this, our kids and grandkids wouldn’t see fishing like we did when we were growing up,” Dale said. “Every one of these guys will go above and beyond to keep the place nice and inform the public.”