MASSENA -- A Massena-based group of local walleye fishermen have released over 10,000 recently hatched walleye into Little Sucker Brook in Waddington.
In 2006 a handful of core volunteers with colossal vision set-up the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association as a not-for-profit organization. The largest among their many goals is to one day build a permanent research and visitors center on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. SLRWA’s mission is to lure researchers and conservationists to a state-of-the-art waterfront laboratory and working hatchery to study the multitudes of fresh-water fish species and their environment on the St. Lawrence River. The group’s plan would open the facility to the public and students of all levels to observe the research and hatching process.
To learn the ground-level development and operation of a hatchery SLRWA’s board of directors looked to the successful portable hatchery program run by the Lake Champlain Walleye Association. Last year, the Vermont organization took SLRWA under their wing and mentored the local group on how to build a portable hatchery and incubate walleye eggs for eventual release as mature fry or fingerlings.
“After months of planning, SLRWA members Rob Barkley and John Matthews spearheaded the extensive plumbing and electricity requirements to build the mobile hatchery in a large utility trailer,” says SLRWA president Michael Gagner. “They spent most of last winter pulling together the intricate water system that is necessary for a proper hatching environment for the eggs.”
“SLRWA prepared a pond on property donated by Dan Andruss of Waddington. Member Bill Cayea oversaw the precise digging of the pond which is specifically designed for maturing the hatched walleye prior to release.”
Frank Flack and his staff from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 6 worked closely with SLRWA through the process and ultimately provided the walleye eggs in April this year. For the hatch the portable hatchery was parked at Whalen Park on the shore of the St. Lawrence River in the Town of Louisville with collaboration of the New York Power Authority. After maturing in the pond, SLRWA was given the green light to release the 10,000-plus walleye at Little Sucker Brook after testing at an independent lab deemed the fish free of disease or virus making the first year for the hatching project an enormous accomplishment for the group. Next year SLRWA is looking forward to partnering with the NYSDEC marking the fish to track the efforts of the program.
“We needed to learn how to maneuver through the steps to launch a hatching program. Now that we have the experience to successfully hatch eggs for release, we can look toward moving our mission forward and take this process from a portable operation to realize our goal which is a permanent waterfront research and education center. In the meantime, we’ll continue the operation every spring from our portable facility,” Gagner added.
The portable hatchery is fully funded by the support of its personal and business members, private donations and the proceeds from five tournaments the group hosts throughout the year. SLRWA estimates the tournaments bring approximately 2,000 anglers to the region annually.
In addition to those mentioned previously, SLRWA would like to thank the many volunteers and companies who provided time and services to the first year launch of the hatchery project – John McCarthy, Gordie Cross, Steve Bishop, Andy Baxter, Jimmy Sweet, KT Power, Fiacco and Riley Construction and Perras Excavating.
More information is at www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com