Fishing for Hatchery Dollars

Worried about the possibility that Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife might have to give back it’s small allotment of tax money to help fix a bad state budget problem, I talked yesterday with Todd Langevin, DIF&W’s Hatcheries Director.

Last session the department received a special one-time appropriation of $200,000 of tax money to expand hatchery production. Todd tells me that all of that money has been spent or committed.

That doesn’t mean the Governor’s budget curtailment order won’t impact hatcheries and other department programs, but it appears that the agency will not have to give back the $200,000 special hatchery appropriation.

That money allowed the department to take over the old Dead River Hatchery, northeast of Kingfield, and grow brook trout there, accepting an offer from the property owner, Poland Spring, to utilize the facility. Poland Spring purchased the property for its water supply and has maintained all the buildings, including the hatchery and two houses.

The department got the hatchery for free and filled the 10 round covered tanks with brook trout that were not scheduled for stocking last spring. Those fish were stocked in the fall, as fall yearlings, for fall open water and winter ice anglers. The tanks are now filled with brook trout fry for the winter.

Tom Brennan, Poland Spring’s Senior Natural Resource Manager, told me that the company is very pleased that DIF&W is utilizing the hatchery, and he hopes it’s a long term relationship. While Poland Spring wants to maintain its ownership of the property for the water supply, “Our expectation is not to make the hatchery a revenue generator for us. If the department can use and maintain the facility, we’d be happy,” said Tom.

Langevin said he also used the special $200,000 appropriation to purchase fish from two private hatcheries and to pay for wintering over trout in DIF&W’s hatcheries in order to increase stocking next spring.

Tom Brennan took Dave Trahan, SAM’s executive director, and I to the hatchery in the fall of 2011 for a tour, and we were both impressed. Dave came home and got right to work, scheduling a meeting with Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and others at DIF&W to discuss the potential use of the Dead River Hatchery. He also worked hard to win that $200,000 appropriation for the agency’s hatchery system.

Dave told me this morning that he will work in the next legislative session to secure a permanent source of funding for the Dead River hatchery in the future. That’ll be a tough assignment, given the current problems with the state budget, but if anyone can get that money for DIF&W, Dave’s the one.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.