From hatchery to hook, fish take long trip
MONTROSE ” Thousands of rainbow trout 3- to 10- inches long dart across outdoor basins and raceways at the hatchery in Rifle.
Their potential to fight emerges when the feeding truck rolls around, throwing countless fish pellets into the water and spurring a finned flurry that resembles popping corn kernels.
In a matter of months, these fish will end up in state waters, where they will grow to become the reason why anglers trek down long trails on hot days, why they glue themselves to seats beside the river to wait or why they drive dozens of miles to their favorite fishing holes.
The journey of these fish destined to be recreational stock may end in an instant with a hook but begins years before the actual catch, in an efficient state system producing millions annually. It’s a process not only about rearing fish but collecting data and analyzing a variety of factors in state waters.
Trout stocked in the Montrose area come from all over the state, including hatcheries at Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Durango, Roaring Judy and Crystal River, said Dan Kowalski, DOW area aquatic biologist for Montrose.
Though raising fish takes place all year, summer is the busiest time as hatchery staff haul thousands of fish all over the state.
On Thursday, the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery scooped buckets of trout into stocking trucks. The facility’s biggest truck hauls up to 4,000 pounds of fish, said David “Doc” Capwell, Rifle hatchery manager.
The fish are crowded into a corner before being netted into buckets in what looks like a “big rolling aquarium,” he said.
Raising fish from an egg to 10 inches takes about 10 months ” give or take a few months depending on the strain, Capwell said.
The facility receives eggs from all over the country and then hatch and rear them to 3 to 12 inches, based on stocking need. Each hatchery raises different fish; at Rifle, one of the largest disease-free trout production facilities in the state, a few different strains of rainbow, brown, brook, splake and cutthroats are raised, Capwell said.
Hatchery staff rest a little after trucking away the fish they raise but there isn’t truly a lull time. “You only get about two weeks of that feeling, then these raceways are full up with fish for all of next year,” he said.
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