Earlier this month, a group of us went to the Bellevue-Watson Hatchery to take a tour of their operations. The hatchery is one of the Colorado Division of Wildlife facilities located a little north of Fort Collins, CO. They operate two separate facilities: one is a grow-out site and the other is a hatchery. It was a beautiful Colorado early winter day with intense sun and snow on the ground.
Steve and Jesse welcomed us and then showed us a movie about the operations of the hatchery. Did you know that most Colorado mountain lakes are stocked for recreational fishing via plane? I didn’t! As they fly over a lake or pond that needs stocking they open a tank that’s located within the plane and the fish drop 50-75 ft into the lake. They say that the stocking survival rates in these ponds are about 95%. Wow! Next we went to see the building where they raise their fish from eggs to fingerlings. The Bellevue Hatchery gets all of their eggs when they’ve “eyed-up.” This means that you are able to see a black dot that will eventually turn into the eye of the fish. In their one hatchery building they had over a million fish from the size of around one centimeter (just hatched) to about 5 centimeters.
We learned a lot about their systems, but for us the challenge is how to relate that information to aquaponics. For example, they can use copper sulfate to treat disease, but if we were to do that we would most likely kill not only our plants, but our fish as well. Hmmmm…there are so many things to think about. Overall, it was an entertaining and educational trip. If you have a state hatchery somewhere near you, I highly suggest that you stop by sometime. It’s a great cheap “fieldtrip” for kids too!
Thanks again to Steve and Jesse from the Division of Wildlife!

written by Rachel Burmeister, Internship Coordinator 2011-2012