State Wildlife Officials and Anglers Celebrate Sandwich Fish Hatchery 100th Anniversary
SANDWICH – Wednesday, September 19, 2012 – Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) joined sportsmen, students from area schools and other supporters today to celebrate the 100th anniversary of state operation of the Sandwich Fish Hatchery.
“The Sandwich Fish Hatchery has a long and very interesting history, and serves important roles in environmental education and enhancing recreational fishing opportunities in the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan.
The facility produces almost 75,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout annually and stocks the fish into 35 rivers and streams and 50 lakes and ponds in 27 cities and towns in southeastern Massachusetts.
“We encourage families, school groups, scouts and other interested people to visit the facility and learn more about Massachusetts’ fish and the rivers, streams, and pond habitats that support them,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin.
The hatchery is one of the oldest in the country, beginning as a private venture around 1860. It is the only MassWildlife hatchery to maintain its own brood stock of brook and brown trout and the only Massachusetts hatchery that produces tiger trout, a cross between female brown trout and male brook trout that is very popular with Massachusetts anglers for its fighting ability.
“This is an exciting milestone for the Sandwich Fish Hatchery,” Senate President Therese Murray said. “The Hatchery is a vital part of our economy, helping to keep our fishing and tourism industries strong, and it preserves our local ecosystem by supporting the natural trout population in the area. Maintaining our natural environment enhances the quality of life for our communities and the Hatchery continues to be an important and valuable resource for the residents of the Commonwealth.”
Located on about 26 acres of land, the facility includes six raceways divided into 52 fish-rearing pools, a hatch house containing 14 fiberglass tanks where eggs are incubated and newly hatched fish are grown until large enough to be moved outdoors to the rearing pools. The hatchery was located at this site because of the abundant artesian springs that supply cold, clean water from the Cape Cod aquifer. The hatchery produces 14 percent of all trout grown and stocked in the Commonwealth.
"This fish hatchery has been a key component to our fresh water recreational activities and ecosystem management for 100 years," said Rep. Randy Hunt. "Besides that, it's the most fun place in town to bring toddlers through pre-teens. My grandkids love it. And so do I."
The Sandwich Fish hatchery has not been immune to fiscal pressures that may have resulted in its closure. In 1992, a well failure and personnel retirements led officials to consider closing the hatchery. A self-described “Geezer Brigade” of mostly retired volunteers made numerous repairs to the hatchery infrastructure over a two year period to help save the facility. In 2003, an administrative proposal to eliminate the Inland Fisheries and Game Fund threatened loss of federal funds and another possible closing of the facility, but an outcry by sportsmen and citizens led to fund restoration by unanimous vote of the Legislature.
“Through their fishing license purchases, sportsmen and women are the backbone of support for the Division’s hatchery program, which includes not only the Sandwich hatchery but four other Division fish rearing facilities,” said Wayne MacCallum, director of MassWildlife. “Trout fishing in Massachusetts ranks first among the New England states with 156,000 trout anglers spending an average of 14 days of fishing for these charismatic fish.”
During a century of operation, the Sandwich Fish Hatchery has produced millions of fish, including the species raised today and sea-run brook and brown trout, Chinook salmon from Wisconsin, landlocked salmon from Maine and New Hampshire, Atlantic salmon from Canada, and Coho salmon from Michigan. The facility has also been involved in important fishery culture research, particularly involving sea-run brook and brown trout.
MassWildlife currently manages five fish hatchery facilities. The trout hatcheries in Belchertown, Montague and Sunderland are also open to the public; a smaller Atlantic salmon hatchery facility in Palmer is not open to the public.
Managed by the DFG’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) since being purchased from the Sandwich Trout Company in 1912, the Sandwich facility is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. seven days a week, and draws more than 20,000 visitors annually. School groups can schedule guided tours by calling 508-888-0008.
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.