A Fish Tale: MOSES Scientists Key to the MassWildlife Fish Hatchery & Stocking Program

Anglers wanting to find stocking locations are just a click away from up-to-date tables and maps. In spring of 2016, the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife rolled out a new trout stocking report tool on their website. A team effort by MassWildlife MOSES members from the hatcheries, districts and agency information & education professionals worked together to create a web-based application that provides daily trout stocking information. Previously, the agency updated trout stocking numbers once a week.

MOSES member, Dan Koch, information technology coordinator for the Department of Fish & Game and application creator, explains, “Anglers can type in a water body or town to find all stocking dates and reports for that site.” The stocking report also features a map component that allows users to zoom and pan to regions of the state and discover new destinations for fishing.

Fellow MOSES member and project map coordinator, David Szczebak, GIS coordinator for the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife agrees, “The default map view shows the entire state and allows users to zoom to areas they can explore. Clicking on a water body provides detailed information about the dates and types of trout that have been stocked.”

The tool is not only a boon to anglers. Other behind-the-scenes portions of the application benefit MassWildlife operations by streamlining and unifying the data and information needed for the actual stocking procedure — from allocating trout to each district to delivery and distribution.

Steve Hurley, Southeast District Fisheries manager and a MOSES member, explains, “With this tool, the district and hatchery staff are always on the same page.” Districts electronically place orders to specific hatcheries, letting the hatcheries know what to plan for deliveries on a daily basis. Hurley continues, “This process requires much less back and forth through telephone calls or emails and provides the hatchery more advanced notice of which districts will be at their doorstep in the morning to pick up fish. This, in turn, helps each hatchery manage their facilities more efficiently.”

Hurley also decides which waterways to stock. He notes, “We consider each body of water’s level of public access and ability to support trout. Those factors, as well as the level of fishing activity, determine how many trout are stocked in each particular location.”

Although providing a recreational outlet for fishing enthusiasts may now be the primary purpose of the program, fish stocking also helps protect the ecosystem from over fishing. Without it, even recreational angling could have negative consequences if MassWildlife didn’t supplement what Mother Nature produces.

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The state raises trout in five hatcheries — located in Belchertown, Palmer, Montague, Sandwich and Sunderland — before releasing them into the wild each year. Milt (sperm) from males and roe (eggs) from female fish are mixed together for fertilization. Within one to two months, the eggs hatch; at six months the fish are approximately 3” in length and are transferred to outdoor tanks until they reach stocking size.

(Pictured left: MOSES President Joe Dorant helps “count” the Rainbow Trout before they are released into Peter’s Pond, Sandwich. To determine how many fish and what types are stocked into a pond, five 10-pound samples (like the net above) are taken and the fish are counted prior to loading into the truck. The truck is then weighed and the difference gives an accurate accounting of the fish to be released.)

MOSES member, Adam Davies, a fish culturist and the manager of the Sandwich Hatchery, shares, “We are one of the oldest operating fish hatcheries in the country. Back when the state purchased the Sandwich Hatchery in 1912, the primary reason for a coordinated stocking program was because the waters were so depleted and damaged by the initial phases of the Industrial Revolution. Over time, our stocking program has evolved into one of recreational, as well as educational enrichment.”

Steve, Ken, Adam, Dan & David are members of the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers & Scientists, a group of 3,300 science and engineering professionals. Their work each day keeps the Commonwealth’s citizens, their air, water & food supplies, the energy that they depend on, the environment that they live and recreate in and the infrastructure that they travel on, safe.

(Pictured below: Rainbow Trout from the Sandwich Hatchery are released by hand and via the “fish” tube.)

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