KENSINGTON — Opening day for fishing is right around the corner and the Kensington State Fish Hatchery is getting ready to start stocking salmon and trout.
Jamie Hays, hatchery supervisor, looks after the facility and the fish.
Q: What exactly do you do here at the Kensington Hatchery?
Hays: We raise Atlantic salmon, Cortland brown trout and Seeforellen brown trout.
Q: How long have you been working here?
Hays: I’ve run Kensington for three years and I ran Burlington Hatchery for seven years prior.
Q: What are some of your responsibilities?
Hays: I oversee the facility, I have staff that work here, seasonal staff and full-time staff. I’m responsible for all the managerial duties as far as scheduling and payroll, but then also monitoring the fish culture side of it. Feeding the fish, weight sampling, everything from broodstock rearing to delivering eggs around the state.
Q: How big are the fish here?
Hays: We have a variety of sizes. I have hundreds of thousands of really small fish, and then I have tens of thousands of average size fish. I have about a thousand or so of really big fish.
Q: What is it like this time of year?
Hays: It’s stocking season. We’re in pre-season, opening day is in a couple of weeks on April 13. So right now we’re pre-season stocking different locations. We haven’t started here yet, we’re giving our fish a little more time to get a little bit larger and then we’ll start putting them out right before opening day and they should be just about 12 inches by then.
Q: What kind of background and skills do you need for this kind of work?
Hays: Most people have backgrounds in fisheries management or even just biology, fisheries biology, there’s a lot of variations. My background is in marine biology. I worked in aquariums for eight or nine years before I got into fisheries.
Q: What is it like out there on the field where the ponds are located?
Hays: I have four wells and they all pump water up into a large head tank and then that water is distributed through three pipelines that run into the hatchery. There’s a line that goes left, right and center. There’s a very distinct line of ponds.
Q: What are some obstacles you run into when raising the fish here?
Hays: You’re working in all kinds of weather conditions. Assuming that the power stays on, the wells keep running, everything goes relatively smoothly. There’s a cycle to everything, everything has to move around the hatchery in a timely fashion.
If a kink gets in the works there it really slows everything down...I had a well freeze overnight and it was actually frozen, we had to put heaters in to get it thawed out.
Q: Why do you like what you do?
Hays: One of the best things is when we stock the fish because all the kids on opening day get to see the fish and that’s a really good experience. I do a lot of tours here, I bring school kids in and I get to show them everything from an egg to an adult salmon that’s 25 pounds.