Petersburg, WV (WCHS/WVAH) — It's a circle of life at the Petersburg fish hatchery in Grant County. Thousands of trout, both rainbow and the beautiful golden rainbow--which was actually discovered and produced right here in the Mountain State--call this place home.
On this day, it was time for some of these fish to spawn--or to reproduce. DNR biologists, and myself, helped speed the process up some.
"We manually take the eggs, squeeze the eggs from the female and the milt from the male--and combine together to create fertilization. And then we're going to hatch those--they'll take about 21 days and we'll have sac-fry. A couple to three weeks later, they'll start to swim up and eat, and the process starts all over", said Jeffrey Williams--Petersburg hatchery manager with the West Virginia DNR.
It's definitely a cycle, which makes these fish essentially immortal. Their genes will continue to carry on after multiple generations. They're healthy fish, too; these two-year old trout simply wouldn't be this large in the wild. This environment makes these fish reach their full potential.
"They have plenty of room--our ponds are big enough to where we don't overcrowd them, which allows them to grow easier. The water temperature stays pretty consistent in the low to mid 50s", said Williams.
This selective breeding will not only keep these fish healthy, but will also make some anglers happy across our beautiful state!
"We do this solely, to put these in for the fishermen. To catch, keep, eat or just catch for fun. It’s 365 days a year--there's somebody here every day. It doesn’t matter if it's a holiday, Christmas, Thanksgiving--we're always here,” said Williams.
These trout are unharmed with the spawning process. Both the males and females are returned back to the chilly water--where they continue to thrive!
Fall trout stockings will begin soon--in the middle part of October--across parts of the state. This season is much shorter than its spring counterpart--lasting about two weeks, but it's still a great time to fish!
The water at the Petersburg Trout Hatchery is supplied by an underground spring--water temperatures stay between 52 and 56 degrees all year!
Williams says that optimal water temperatures for trout are around 55 degrees--chilly!
As you would expect, spawning success is much lower with trout in the wild due to predation and environmental factors. Controlled spawning at these hatcheries greatly increases reproductive success with these fish.
These trout are part of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources stocking program.
Anesthesia was used to lightly sedate these trout during the spawning process.
DNR biologists, before the spawning process, make sure to select the 'best fish'--ones with the fewest defects. Some common issues can be some fish missing fins, tails, etc.
Williams says the Petersburg trout hatchery does their spawning in late-August and September.
Rainbow trout usually spawn during the spring months in the wild.
The Golden Rainbow Trout was discovered and produced here in West Virginia through selective breeding! In 1955 the Petersburg hatchery created the golden rainbow mutation from a single fish.
In 1963, the West Virginia DNR began to stock golden rainbow trout in some of our streams and lakes.
Some anglers find golden rainbow trout “skittish” and harder to catch. I have yet to catch one myself!
Williams says that without the stocking program, fishing opportunities would be much lower here in West Virginia--especially trout-fishing, as many streams turn much warmer in the summer.