NEWS & OPINION
Snowmobilers Stock Fish In Backcountry
Volunteers Ride In, Drop Fish In Beaver Ponds
By Bridget Shanahan
MORGAN, Vt. -- Snowmobiling season is just wrapping up, but before the snowmobiles are put away for next year, some winter enthusiasts are taking a ride to make sure you have a better fishing season. They're taking their sleds into the backcountry to make sure the fish are biting when you get there this summer.
Inside a small, snow-covered building in Morgan there's a hatchery where things are an exact science.
"There we are exactly at 4 (ounces). So that's about 400," Hatchery volunteer Pete Engel said.
Four ounces means 400 tiny brook trout also known as fry. They're measured and poured into a Ziploc bag. The bag is pumped with oxygen, sealed airtight and packed into a cooler filled with snow.
"We try to get them out in the morning early so that the snow is good and hard. It's much easier to do when it's cold out," Engel said.
Engel has been volunteering with the hatchery for six years. In fact, they're all volunteers around here. They raise the fish from eggs, and then send them out to the Northeast Kingdom backcountry.
It's a short ride winding along a snow-covered trail and then on foot, scouting out the best spot for the trout to grow.
"I'm going to go down and see if I can get into the deeper water there," volunteer Walt Driscoll said.
There's a series of beaver ponds under all this snow offering protection to the brook trout fry.
"The other reason is the beaver ponds are high in zoo plankton which is a microorganism that they need to feed on at this age," Driscoll said.
And even still, only about 10 percent will survive that leaves roughly 40 fish per pond.
Once they find a pond that they want to release the fish into, they keep the brook trout fry inside the bag and put them inside the pond, so the fish can get acclimated to the water temperature. They sit here for about 10 minutes or so before they actually release the fish.
"Otherwise all Pete's efforts at the hatchery have gone to waste because they'll just belly up," Driscoll said.
Larry Fortin and Driscoll have never been out this way before but before long they've found three ponds to fill.
"It's almost like a bit of an adrenaline rush. You get loaded up, you know what you're going to do you're going to spend all day," Fortin said.
"You're out in the woods and no houses and cars around is what I enjoy," Driscoll added.
And come spring, there'll be some places, deep in the woods where the fish are biting.
If you'd like the inside scoop on which ponds have been stocked, there's a map at the Morgan Hatchery detailing where they've been and when. Anyone is welcome to come by, and check it out.