Dry Mills Hatchery

Posted in Education, Experience on

In March, the Education Department visited the Dry Mills Hatchery in Gray, Maine to learn more about the brook trout stocked in the Pineland Pond. Greg Bell, the Fish Culture Supervisor at the Dry Mills Hatchery, gave us a behind the scenes look at how the fish are raised.

The fish eggs are fertilized in the fall. It takes over a month before the eyes start to form. One month after the eggs ‘eye up’ the ‘sac fry’ hatch and live off of their yolk sacs for another month (just like the yolk in a chicken egg feeds baby chicks before they hatch). When the yolk sac is gone the fry are old enough to eat on their own. The fry feed and grow in the hatchery building tanks through the winter. These tanks are pumped with fresh water from the Crystal Lake watershed and the perfect amount of food is dispensed on a timer above their tanks.

Similar to our dairy farm, good genetics play a role to make sure these fish are healthy and strong. On the farm, our farmers selectively mate the cow families proven to be consistent transmitters of desirable genetics. This means we breed efficient, hardy, trouble-free cows with long, profitable, and productive lives. At the Dry Mills Hatchery, they breed two strains of fish. The Kennebago strain is wild, native, long-lived, and used to stock areas conducive for native brook trout populations. The Maine Hatchery Strain is a cross between female Kennebago and male Maine Hatchery strains which produces a more domesticated fish with characteristics from both strains. These fish are bred to reach the legal size at an earlier age and are stocked in areas for fishing, like at the Pineland Pond.

In late spring, when the fish are 3-4 months old, they are transferred to the raceways. It will take 8-15 months before they are stocked into Maine’s waters. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife stock fish in over 700 waters across the state. The fish are delivered by plane, truck, boat, ATV, bucket and even backpacked into remote ponds.

If you visit the Dry Mills Hatchery you’ll find over 2500 ft. of raceway housing brook trout aged 3-4 months to 3 years. There is even a pool filled with approximately 10,000 yearlings soon to be released for springtime fishing. You’re able to feed the fish but please adhere to the signage, these fish are on a special diet! Eventually, some of these brook trout will be calling the Pineland Pond home. Please see the Maine Wildlife Park website for visitor information.

Stay tuned for more information about fishing at the Pineland Pond….releasing soon!

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