By JOSH COTTON
The stork has arrived at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery.
Photo submitted for publication
A female lake trout is spawned at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery last month.
For the first time since 2004, adult lake trout broodstock fish were spawned at the facility that was shut down from 2005 to 2011 due to the detection of a viral fish disease that necessitated depopulation, disinfection and extensive facility repairs and upgrades at the 40-year-old hatchery.
Last November, the 2,200 then-five-year-old fish were the first to move into the renovated raceways near Kinzua Dam. They were spawned for the first time during a two-week window last month.
And they were ready.
"This is the earliest and shortest spawning period that has ever occurred at the hatchery," Hatchery Project Leader Larry Miller said. "It caught the hatchery staff by surprise and required postponement of fall fingerling stocking on lakes Erie and Ontario so all staff could participate in the spawning operation."
Lake trout spawning normally starts at the end of October and can run up into the week of Thanksgiving.
Miller said about 700 male and 700 female lake trout were hand spawned to produce just over two million fertilized eggs that will be raised at the hatchery.
"The target is production of 240,000 fall fingerling lake trout and 700,000 yearlings for stocking in lakes Erie and Ontario in 2013 and 2014," Miller said, explaining that fingerling fish are one year old and yearlings are 18 months. "Not all of the eggs survive to the target size and any fish produced in excess of target numbers will be made available to New York and Pennsylvania for stocking in other lake trout lakes in each state."
This batch of broodstock will be spawned every year for five years before retirement in local lakes, replaced by fish from eggs taken from wild fish. "These wild fish eggs are currently being hatched at the hatchery and will be mature when they are six years old."
The hatchery operations at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery are part of a federal, multi-state and Canadian effort to restore lake trout population to the Great Lakes following years of decline that resulted from pollution, overfishing and sea lamprey predation which have or are being addressed cooperatively.