Photos By: Justin Dobson
I imagine those of us who grew up fishing have at some point visited a hatchery. I know for me as a child I was always fascinated by the trip which was generally about a once-a-year occasion. I remember having to put a quarter in the bubble gum machine turned trout chow dispenser at the McLaughlin Trout Hatchery in Belchertown, MA. With a handful of chow you have to begin by tossing in one at a time, and end with the last of your handful for the finale like a 4th of July fireworks display. To be quite honest, as an adult I still do that. And almost every hatchery has the large “pet”/ or breeder trout which to a kid just seems like some mutated science experiment. Fish that big with shredded and missing fins just seemed freakish to a kid like me whose trophy catch may have been a 14 inch brookie.
This Spring I took my little one, who will be 5 this August, to our local hatchery in Buford, GA. The hatchery visit brought back lots of good memories for me and makes me remember what it’s like to be a kid who is fascinated by fish. Our visit to this hatchery was definitely not the “nickel tour” I got as a kid. It used to be a speech on the laboratory and how they breed the fish. The tour given by our kind host Butch, (who has worked at the hatchery since the early 80’s) and was full of trout petting, buckets of chow to throw and some great education on trout and the other hatchery visitors like snakes, ospreys and herons. The little ones even got to submerge their hands full of chow right into the tanks to feed the fish by hand.
If you have targeted trout you have almost certainly caught stockers. And whether you are the parent of a little kid, or just a big kid like me, get out and visit your local hatchery and check out all the work that goes into putting those fish into our waters.