Atlantic Salmon 2011

Club members went through some interesting times in the Winter and Spring of 201.  The hatchery survived both the cold and snow of winter and the floods of spring.

Early in January, 2011 members of the club installed tanks and the necessary plumbing at the dam at McConnellsville. Everything seemed fine as water was flowing through the tanks and we thought we were ready to receive our eggs. Then it got really cold.  The temperature was estimated to be -20F overnight in McConnellsville on January 24 and when Paul checked on the hatchery, just about everything was frozen.  Paul alerted other members of the club and people brought in propane heaters and got the equipment thawed out.  By the 27th water was again flowing through the system.   The McConnellsville Hatchery
We found that we did not really need much if any heat to maintain temperatures above freezing  once everything had gotten thawed out.

Plastic curtain
The plastic curtain was doubled and it seemed to work out well in  keeping out the cold.  Notice the insulation around the tanks.
A 6 mil plastic curtain was put up enclosing the open end.  This seemed to help a lot as the temperatures moderated in the hatchery and we no longer had to worry about having the water in the pipes freeze.

On Feb 8, our eggs left the Casco Maine Fish Hatchery  and arrived at Paul's house Feb 09, at 11:38 AM.  When the box was opened,  it was discovered that the Styrofoam trays had broken and collapsed and a couple hundred eggs were lost immediately.  On the second day in the hatchery and there were over 2300 eggs that were obviously damaged and had turned white.  Some eggs started to hatch right away and  in our experience those that hatch so quickly don't have a very high survival rate.  

Paul set up a schedule for members to attend to the hatchery and to spread the work around.

It was decided to keep the snow on the roof of the hatchery as it would act as an insulating blanket.  It was a little treacherous to descend the steps down to the hatchery.  A rope was fastened that members can grab when descending the steps.

After thawing out the plumbing and the tanks and after installing the plastic curtain, the temperatures in the hatchery were consistently above freezing without using the propane heaters.  So it appears that next year that heating the inside will be necessary only in extreme conditions.
The hatchery under a blanket of snow
The McConnellsville Hatchery under a blanket of insulating snow.

Flood waters
April 29, high water, too deep to enter the hatchery.  Fish don't drown, humans do.
In early March water levels started to become a problem.  The area had gotten a lot of snow over the winter which melted and then came torrential rains in April.  Club members rushed to the hatchery and secured the tanks before the water rose too much to allow access to the tanks.

The club lost a number of fish due to the high water and sediments deposited by the water.  When the water cleared up and flows became more normal, the remaining fish did well.

Even though the club lost a lot of fish during early 2011,  plenty of fish have survived.  On May 26, fish were sent off to the laboratory to be tested.  Allowing 4 weeks for testing, the tentative stocking date will be on June 26, 2011.  

Another crisis occurred on June 7,  when we started losing fish to a fungal infection.  We instituted a more rigorous cleaning procedure and the problem corrected itself but not before we lost several hundred fish.

From time to time we would find crayfish in among the fish.  There was evidence that they were praying on the fish as some fish looked like they had gotten pinched by the crayfish claws.
Tank no 3
At this stage on May 19 the fry are about an inch long.

Feeding time for the fish Video taken June 18 One of the enjoyable things is to hand feed the fish.  The fish are aggressive feeders and it is rather neat to watch them feed.  The water literally boils with their activity.

A video was taken of the feeding activity  and it can be watched by clicking on the image to the left.  Be warned that, although the video only runs 7 seconds, it is a large file (8 mb) and it takes a long time to down load if you do not have a high speed connection to the internet.

On July 2, 2011 club members met at the hatchery in McConnellsville, NY to stock Atlantic salmon.  Paul Miller again instructed the volunteers how and where to stock the fish. Coolers and oxygen were necessary because of the warmer temperatures and the distances involved in transportation.  The fish were first placed in heavy duty plastic bags along with water and oxygen and then closed with an o-ring.  The bags were placed in coolers for the trip to the stocking sites.

The Boy Scouts from North Bay also helped stock fish.
Stocking Crew

Water Temperature
One of the concerns that members have about the hatchery is having the water in the tanks and pipes freeze.  The salmon eggs and fry need a continuous supply of oxygenated water for their survival.   The club borrowed a recording thermometer to document the water temperature over time.  

A double layer of building plastic was placed on the open end of the hatchery. 
Once the hatchery was sealed from the outside air, no freeze ups occurred.  

Steps are being made to improve the air tightness of the hatchery and to further increase the insulation from the outside air.

One of the probes of the recording thermometer was left to sample the ambient air in the hatchery.  It was found that the lowest the ambient air temperature got to was 29.79 degrees.  This is especially encouraging as the outside temperature was recorded officially nearby at -20 degrees F at one point during the winter.

The water temperatures correlated well with the air temperatures as it warmed up in March.  The two graphs can be overlaid to show this point.  It has been decided that we should not shovel the snow from the roof as it adds an insulating value.
Temperature Air