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Minnesota Fish Hatcheries--Pat Schmidt

As told by Pat Schmidt
Lanesboro, Minnesota

Story Narrative:

This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record the state of American lakes, rivers, and waterways as well an attempt to uncover what water means to Americans. Listen to other stories recorded by the Minnesota Humanities Center for the Stories from Main Street project, an initiative created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service for its traveling exhibition "Water/Ways."

"I'm Pat Schmidt and I am the current supervisor at the Lanesboro Fish Hatchery. It supplies all of the brown trout for the state of Minnesota and the majority of the rainbows come out of the station also. It’s the largest hatchery in Minnesota. We are working currently with about 5,000 gallons of water a minute. The hatchery location is selected just because it’s the hillside that the spring comes out of. It’s just known as Duschee Valley Spring and it’s been here for as long as anybody can remember. The state purchased it in 1926 and we have been working with it ever since. Well, we exist because a lot of the streams do not have enough of a natural population to keep enough fish in there to keep the fisherman and our clientele happy.

When people go fishing they want to catch fish. So we put them in as fingerlings, which are smaller fishes that are probably 2.5 to 3 inches in length. Or as yearlings which are immediately ready to be caught put into the creek or so desired and can be released for someone else to catch depending on the individual fisher. Come over here, I can show you some of the fish we are working with. A little browns, a little bit of the hatchery. We get a semi-load of feed quarterly. So we go through a lot of feed. But we raise a lot of fish. Weare right at about a million, not quite, we are a little under a million right now. We used to raise about 1.2 million but requests have gone down. And part of that is because we have done a good job and natural reproduction increases, so we have to stop less.

We have the red tint lights, we are trying to mimic dawn and dusk, when trout are most active. So the subdue lighting promotes more activity from the trout and they just feed better especially the brown trout. As you can see these rainbows are right up near the top. They are utilizing the entire column of water. You throw a little feed in it and they are more than happy to come and eat it. They are really fun to raise. Everybody likes to work with the rainbows just because of their aggressive nature but consequently you put this fishes out and he is very aggressive and easy to catch, too. Some people like that, some people don’t. Now over here we will look at some brown trout, as you can see they are hanging near the bottom and when we came over here they actually dropped further down.

We actually use these feeders, the belt feeders, to deliver the food to the fish just so we don’t have to walk here all the time and spook them. Consequently a lot harder to work with, a lot harder to raise and they grow slower because they are not an aggressive fish. Water is exceptionally important. We couldn’t live very long without good clean water and people do take it for granted and I guess even I do at times. I don’t realize it until, like when I'm here, I live on site and I can hear the spring running as it tumbles over the falls and if I am somewhere else in the middle of the night, sometimes I jump out and say “oh my god the water stopped” and then I think oh right I'm not at the hatchery. I realize it is really important here to have running water because if we don’t our fish die."

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