© 2011 Will K 0WK0448-R1-015-6

Salvelinus patronus: Part II, Birth in a Pumphouse

It isn’t a glorious birth if you take it for what it is on the surface.  The place chosen for the hatching and rearing of the little Brookies, the same little Brookies who would hopefully save entire populations of other species of trout, is inglorious. The pump house that would glory in its new role began its own life as a glorious space of its own, but time led it down the path of mundane and even neglect.

It began as the hatchery’s office, small though it is, it gives an unmistakable image of how things have changed since then.  The new office is more modern and certainly larger, but this little building has the charisma of something that would come back to have a special place…with a long history of being forgotten in the mean time.  After the new office was built, the pump house became a miniature storage facility.  It was the equivalent of a father “teaching” his son to work on engines: “Here son, just hold this flashlight.  It’s an important job, I promise.”

The son grew up, though, and the father found that no one was holding the flashlight.  The building laid vacant for years.  Many in the hatchery, reportedly, refused to even go in it for fear of falling through the floor.  Before the hatchery manager and founder of the Brookie project, Wes Swee, tore down the one wall inside, he addressed the issue of the wood floor.  On the far side, what was once the second room, the floor apparently was in horrible condition.  It creaked, sagged, and generally struck fear in everyone’s hearts in a literally rotten way.  People wouldn’t walk on it for fear of falling through and landing themselves in the raceway below.  Wes looked into it further, did some tearing out, and found that underneath the planks was a very sturdy…concrete floor.  A hippo could have set up shop in there an not fallen.  Interestingly, had the floor not been such a worry, the building could have otherwise been occupied all those years and, ultimately, unavailable for the Brookies.

After getting the floor fixed, a wall torn out to allow for the hatching tanks, and new electric and plumbing installed, the work could begin on getting the 75,000 eggs hatching.  A feather still hung on the wall behind one of the tanks and I inquired about it’s purpose.  Wes mentioned that it was used for stirring the eggs in the jars to prevent settling and promote hatching; the goal was to replicate stream conditions that naturally stir the eggs.  I remembered seeing and hearing in other places that feathers do that job perfectly–enough backbone to get them riled around, but gentle enough to never harm the eggs.  Perhaps I was being a little sentimental, but it was a significant sight to me.  To see the very feather that helped hatch all the little parr I was about to see and handle later in the day.

While 75,000 eggs were ordered and a hope of having 25,000 successful fry, only 11,000 made it.  A brief issue with bacterial gill disease reared its head, but was dealt with by a very large UV sterilizer installed in the circulation system.  Part of the reason the pump house was so ideal for the project was its situation right on top of one of the race ways that snaked through the rear of the park.  Water could be easily pumped up into the tanks, through them and the sterilizer and washed back out into the race.  Curiously, on the backside of the race that saw the outflow from the tanks, several very large Rainbows were hanging out.  I was told these were holdovers from the time when the Brookies were being reared in the house–the deads were thrown out and those big Rainbows were eager to let them not go to waste.

The real adventure begins after the fish left the pump house and entered their own race way.  This is where and when the experiment could begin, and where the Brookie spirit would throw some wild pitches.  That, though, is for next time….

4 Comments

  1. Posted November 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm | #

    really cool stuff…well done. Cheers!

  2. Posted November 16, 2011 at 12:22 am | #

    Nice post, I enjoyed it and the black and white photos are excellent.

    • Posted November 16, 2011 at 7:51 pm | #

      Thanks! It is still one of my best non-fishing trips ever.

  3. Matt McReynolds
    Posted November 18, 2011 at 8:52 am | #

    Always enjoy coming to the Corridor for a leisurely read. Keep ’em coming, Will.

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