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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Pleasant Mount Hatchery is a local treasure

  • Tucked away between two mountains in Pleasant Mount is a piece of living, breathing Wayne County history.


    The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission operates a Fish Culture Station that was built in 1903. This 108-year-old facility is still functioning and adapting as well as it did the day it opened on Oct. 16, 1903.


     


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  • Tucked away between two mountains in Pleasant Mount is a piece of living, breathing Wayne County history.
    The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission operates a Fish Culture Station that was built in 1903. This 108-year-old facility is still functioning and adapting as well as it did the day it opened on Oct. 16, 1903.
    Honorable Samuel W. Pennypacker was governor of Pennsylvania when this culture station was established. The original name of the hatchery was Wayne Hatchery #4 to avoid confusing it with the Pleasant Gap Hatchery built two months prior. The number 4 was designated to record that it was, in fact, the fourth hatchery built in the state.
    The first superintendent of the hatchery was Nathan R. Buller and was at the future site of the buildings from the start. Buller arrived in 1903 and laid walls for both the main spring and constructed the first hatch house to sit on the property.
    Nestled inside the hatch house were 24 Clark-Williamson troughs. The Clark-Williamson troughs “were 20 feet long and shallow (6-8”) with gravel on the bottom to imitate stream bottoms.” Multiple ponds, of varying sizes and depths, were placed around the hatchery to serve as nursery and grow out ponds.
    The fish the hatchery was made to raise were black bass (smallmouth bass), pickerel and perch. Raising frogs at the station was also considered. The hatchery did so well that in 1910, all pickerel production for Pennsylvania, which reached totals of up to 20 pounds a day, was done at the humble hatchery in Pleasant Mount.
    In 1909, the hatchery continued to grow and expand with the building of an icehouse. The icehouse was a necessary addition because ice was needed for shipping eggs and the refrigeration of protein rich fish food.
    The year 1914 brought with it the installation of the first electric plant on the premises. This electric plant was water operated and the electricity generated was used to power lights throughout the facility. Its installation laid the groundwork for plant-wide electricity in 1928. A second hatch house was added in 1916 and is still used today to nurture and grow millions of guppies.
    In the 1920s, the hatchery had a major draw of tourism with its fish displays. An excerpt from a brochure from that period states that “At the present time, the Board maintains on the second floor of Hatchery Building Number One, an aquarium having approximately fifty different species of living fish, reptiles and amphibia on exhibition.” The literature further boasts that it is visited annually by boy and girl scouts, nature study classes and hundreds of tourists from almost every state and some foreign countries.
    Wayne Hatchery #4 originally sat on 14 acres of property generously donated to the then titled Department of Fisheries by a Miss Alison B. Sterling. Another two acres were donated to the hatchery by James T. O’Neil and four adjoining acres were purchased with a house and barn occupying them. The hatchery continued to expand when 30 more acres were added to the acreage, bringing the grand total to 50 acres.
    Page 2 of 3 - The major water sources for the hatchery are the waters of the Lackawaxen River via Beaver Meadows Reservoir (Belmont Lake). This lake was obtained by the hatchery in 1917. Around the same time, other waterways were bought by the hatchery from the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. This purchase included Miller Pond and White Oak Pond.
    The current superintendent of the now named Pleasant Mount Fish Culture Station, Thomas Pekarski, discussed various aspects of the hatchery.
    The history of the facility is interesting and rich, but the question still lingered: What exactly does a hatchery do?
    “We raise fish here to be stocked in various bodies of water throughout the eastern half of the state,” Pekarski said.
    There are different ways to raise and hatch the eggs, from placing the eggs in jars or in heath trays. The jar method is a historically tried and true technique where fertilized eggs are placed in a jar and allowed to incubate. The jars have a gentle movement of water throughout to simulate being in a natural stream. Fish hatched in this way at the local hatchery are walleye.
    A heath tray is  larger version of a the jar technique, except it is a concrete basin that is long and flat with gentle water stimulation. “When the fish are ready to hatch, we transfer them to a holding tank to allow them to develop,” Pekarski said.
    The busy season for the hatchery “is the spring,” when the fish are beginning to spawn. At its peak, the hatchery has “1.2 million fingerlings and 30 million fry” on site. This hatchery employs nine fish culturalists, which is something that Pekarski is very proud of.
    The staff of culturalists are responsible for the spawning of the fish and the stocking of the lakes. This means that from conception to adulthood, these workers are involved in the lives of these fish.
    “The walleye spawning is quite the process,” Pekarski said. The walleye, located as adults in Lake Wallenpaupack, begin to spawn in the spring. The walleye are harvested in nets, collected and then taken to the hatchery. While at the hatchery, the belly of the female fish is gently squeezed and the eggs are placed in a bucket and mixed with the sperm of two males “to ensure the eggs are fertilized.” One female can have as many as 100,000 eggs and 70,000 eggs can fit into one 16-ounce glass.
    After fertilization, the eggs are put in a safe and secure incubator and will hatch in about 21 days. The adult walleye used in the process are returned safe and sound back to the waters of Lake Wallenpaupack.
    The hatchery functions as a provider of various types of fish for lakes that need to be restocked for various reasons. Some lakes may have been over fished, or a recently refilled lake may need to be restocked “to re-establish the population of the lake.”
    Page 3 of 3 - “Biologists conduct surveys of the composition of the lakes,” Pekarski said. “Once they determine what species are needed, they place an order with us.”
    This type of restocking is necessary because “some of the fish aren’t native to the eastern lakes or they can’t reproduce enough on their own,” he said. During the past 100 years this station has been functioning, 39 species of fish have been hatched there.
    Another interesting fact about the hatchery is that it is operated and funded by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and is not affiliated with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
    “Our funding comes from the sale of fishing licenses. We don’t get any funds from the general tax either,” Pekarski said.
    The hatchery is also open year round for the public to tour from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The aquarium is still in use and is a 9,500 gallon tank that holds living examples of the fish grown at that station. There is also a cozy visitor’s center with free literature about the hatchery and what it does.
    As a visitor, you are free to roam the majority of the hatchery and see fish in stages from egg to adult. There is also a picnic area that overlooks a pond holding walleye and catfish.
    There is also a small tank that holds beautifully gold colored small Palomino Trout that enjoy playing hide and seek from visitors.
    If you are a fisherman, historian or are just plain curious, the Pleasant Mount Fish Culture Station will provide something for everybody.
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