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What We Do

Fishing enthusiasts have been stocking river with rainbow trout for over thirty years

PHOTOS AND STORY BY MELODY FALCONER-POUNDER


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The Bayfield Anglers Association (BAA) is reputed to be the oldest hatchery in Ontario according to BAA member, Tony Woolley. The association was formed in 1982 when the depletion of big fish was first becoming a concern. Today the BAA provides about 90 per cent of the Rainbow Trout found in the Bayfield River while Mother Nature supplies the rest.

Gord Hill and the late Walter Turner and Gerry Uniac started the hatchery and the BAA. The BAA has members whom help maintain the hatchery during the season that typically runs from from April through October. The BAA works closely with the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) to keep the hatchery operating each year. 

Permits for taking water are required from the MOE while permits for taking eggs and releasing fry are needed from the MNR. ABCA visits the hatchery every two weeks to ensure optimum water quality.1 Port Albert fish ladder

The hatchery itself is located near a natural spring and a system has been devised so that the growing fry are always in fresh running water. Extra oxygen is supplied to the tank to support large numbers of fry. The conditions of a natural environment are simulated with regards to light, temperature and oxygen.  

The hatchery process begins in April each year when members travel to the Port Albert Fish Ladder to collect roughly 60,000 eggs. The eggs are placed in trays at the hatchery that float in the tank filled with fresh running water. There is a rotating schedule of members who pair up to regularly visit the hatchery and ensure the health of the eggs as they hatch into “sac fry” and mature and grow into fry ready for release.

IMG_0778These partners must take careful records detailing such things as development stages and counts on dead or infertile eggs as well as water flows and water quality. When 25 per cent of the sac fry begin to swim up then hand feeding begins. Once about 60 per cent are swimming up then automatic feeding can start but then it also becomes important to clean the tank on a daily basis. Once the fry are released in mid-late October the empty tank must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Before new eggs are introduced to the tank in the spring this process of cleaning and sanitizing will be repeated.

The hatchery project is a labor of love for the members of the BAA. There is a membership fee of $10 per year to help cover costs. Feed for the fish is sometimes donated. The association also has hats and t-shirts available for sale. This fall they will run the weigh scale at the Bayfield Lions’ Club’s Rainbow Trout Derby for a donation from the club.IMG_0788

In an ideal world, the fry that are released in October will spend one year in the spot where they were dropped and in the second year they will make their way out into Lake Huron. In their third year they will make their way back up the Bayfield River to return “home” for spawning. Three years from now when they make their return visit the Rainbows will weigh an average between two to three pounds.

IMG_0817Of course, many of them while on this journey will become food for sport fisherman and wildlife but thanks to groups such as the BAA there will continue to be trout to enjoy for many years to come.