CROWN POINT — Despite efforts to declare it dead, the Essex County Fish Hatchery has managed to survive.
The initial county budget for 2011 closed it to save money, but the Fish Hatchery got its funding back and is still in business.
The hatchery in Crown Point has three employees and a $281,000 annual budget.
It is still afloat because many members of the County Board of Supervisors said revenue from the sport tourism it generates is many times greater than its budget.
READY TO STOCK
County Fisheries Director Steve LaMere said the 2011 stocking list has been finished and sent to the State Department of Environmental Conservation for approval.
"One of the things that will be nice is we're actually going to have several thousand 3-year-old rainbows (trout), which will probably average about 20 inches."
Stocking those trophy fish should bring anglers from all over, he said.
"We have provided that size fish a few times over the last decade and a half. Every time we've done that, the interest level and the amount of usership that we've seen in the places that we've stocked those fish has been phenomenal. Some anglers literally spend their entire lifetimes fishing for trout that size."
He said the big fish will be spread evenly throughout the county's waters.
"They are not going just in our blue-ribbon trout waters like the West Branch (of the Ausable) and the Boquet (River), so it will be very interesting to see what happens, because word travels very fast when we've done this. This has been a big deal."
LaMere said they'll be looking for feedback from the supervisors, outdoor guides and anglers on the stocking.
"If people are really happy with them, (it's) something that we'll try to do as often as we can. It depends on whether we've had the space to be able to raise that size fish because they take up two to three times more space than the 2-year-olds and the yearlings do."
He said they can get only 750 of the large rainbow trout into the tanks in a stocking truck.
Stocking will commence in April.
The hatchery will be doing disease testing of its fish this month, LaMere said.
"That is an annual requirement by the state. I've been there 21 years in February, and we have been certified disease-free all those years and are one of the few facilities in New York state that have maintained that certification."
He said the testing costs about $4,000 and is done by a laboratory in Maine.
Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said they're still trying to get some state funding or have the hatchery's deed restrictions lifted.
The state turned the hatchery over to the county in 1982 but placed deed restrictions on it so it couldn't be put up for sale or have its fish sold to other organizations.
"So we did them (the state) a favor, took it over, took over their employees, and now they are telling us how important it is to keep, but we have no funding from them to help do this," Douglas said.
The cost of capital improvements at the hatchery is estimated at $500,000, and although the state wrote the county a letter about how essential its stocking program is, it hasn't provided any money to help.
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