ARMSTRONG STATE FISH HATCHERY (McDowell County)
Located 10 miles north of the town of Marion and 2.5 miles off NC 226A, the Armstrong State Fish Hatchery is a coldwater trout hatchery consisting of two sections of outdoor raceways and indoor egg- and fingerling-rearing facilities. The clear, cold water of the Armstrong Creek watershed provides a good environment for raising trout. Armstrong Hatchery is responsible for stocking catchable-size trout in the public trout waters of 11 counties in the northern section of North Carolina's mountain region.
The Armstrong Hatchery's upper section of 16 raceways was built in 1957, and its lower rearing section with 20 raceways was added in the mid-1960s. In 1999 a liquid oxygen system was installed at the upper section of raceways at Armstrong that boosts the concentration of oxygen available to trout and thereby increases the number of trout that can be raised.
Flowing water for the Armstrong Hatchery is captured at five water intakes located on the property and piped to the various raceways and hatching facilities. The hatchery maintains its own strains of brook and brown trout broodstocks that have been bred and maintained on the site for 40 years. These fish are spawned each fall and the eggs are incubated to the eyed-egg stage when they are transferred to Marion Hatchery for final hatching and rearing to "fingerling" size (approximately four inches in length). In late spring, the fingerlings are returned to Armstrong for grow-out to "catchable" (10-inch) size. During the grow-out phase, hatchery staff feed trout a prepared diet that supplies the complete nutritional requirement for optimum growth. The hatchery staff also samples groups of trout monthly to monitor their growth rates, feed conversions and health conditions. By monitoring trout closely, Armstrong employees are able to make weekly adjustments to the amount and frequency they feed trout, as well as alter the water flows and oxygen levels. By late winter, the trout reach their target stocking size of 10 inches.
The stocking season begins annually in March, when hatchery-supported trout waters are closed to fishing for re-stocking, and continues through November. Trout are loaded on specially designed trucks that provide water recirculation and aeration, then transported to their final destinations where they are released. Each load of trout contains 40 percent brook trout, 40 percent rainbow trout and 20 percent brown trout. Four percent of each load consists of "big trout" that are at least 14 inches in length. Armstrong's fleet of three stocking trucks completes more than 100 trips each year, logging some 25,000 miles.
The hatchery is open to the public during normal working hours, 8a.m. - 4p.m., on weekdays. For more information, write to Armstrong State Fish Hatchery, 3336 Armstrong Creek Road, Marion, N.C. 28752 or call (828) 756-4179.
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MARION STATE FISH HATCHERY (McDowell County)
Located north of the town of Marion and 1.5 miles east of US 221, the Marion State Fish Hatchery is a coldwater trout hatchery consisting of four earthen ponds, eight concrete raceways, a hatchery building with indoor rearing tanks, and a spring-fed, water-supply pond. Because Marion Hatchery is located close to the spring sources of its water supply, water temperatures at Marion Hatchery are cooler in summer and warmer in winter than at other state trout hatcheries. These moderate water temperatures allow rapid hatching of trout eggs and provide a good environment for growing trout "fingerlings" year-round. The hatchery's primary function is hatching trout eggs and rearing newly hatched trout to fingerling size for the state's hatchery-supported trout waters program. Secondary functions include raising forage fish and broodstock muskellunge to support "muskie" production operations at Table Rock State Fish Hatchery.
The Marion State Fish Hatchery was built in 1926.
Trout Hatchery Operations
Eggs of brook, brown and rainbow trout typically are brought to Marion Hatchery from other state fish hatcheries each fall. The eggs are placed in incubators where flowing water provides oxygen to the developing trout for two to six weeks until hatching. Newly hatched trout, called "sac fry," are placed in troughs inside the hatchery building and given an artificial feed that supplies the complete nutritional requirements for fast growth. After two months in 55-degree water, the sac fry grow to about two inches long. At that time, they are moved to outdoor raceways where they will be grown to "fingerling" (3- to 4-inch long) trout. In 1999, more than 220,000 fingerling trout averaging 3.4 inches long were produced at Marion. Marion Hatchery provides most of the fingerling trout that are transferred to Armstrong Hatchery for final grow-out to "catchable" size (10 inches). Marion Hatchery also supplies trout for many of the hatchery-supported trout streams that are managed using fingerling stockings.
Other Hatchery Operations
Three earthen ponds at Marion are used to raise goldfish and fathead minnows. These fish species are used as forage for muskellunge ("muskie") at Table Rock State Fish Hatchery. A fourth earthen pond is used as a holding pond for raising broodstock muskie. The muskie are raised at Marion from one-year-olds until they reach peak sexual maturity at three to five years old when they are transferred to Table Rock for use as broodstock.
Marion State Fish Hatchery is located north of the town of Marion on Fish Hatchery Road, just off Hankins Road, 1.5 miles east of US 221. The hatchery is open to the public during normal working hours, 8a.m. - 4p.m., on weekdays. For more information, write to Marion State Fish Hatchery, 645 Fish Hatchery Road, Marion, N.C. 28752 or call (828) 652-7802.
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BOBBY N. SETZER STATE FISH HATCHERY (Transylvania County)
Located in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, Bobby N. Setzer State Fish Hatchery is the state's largest trout hatchery. The facility consists of 16 indoor rearing tanks, where trout are kept until they are "fingerlings" (about three inches long), and 54 outdoor raceways, where the fish are grown until they are "catchable" size (at least 10 inches long). The water supply for the hatchery comes from surface water diversions on Davidson River and Grogan Creek, which supply about 3,500 gallons per minute of cold mountain water year-round. The Bobby N. Setzer Hatchery produces both fingerling- and catchable-trout for the Wildlife Resources Commission's hatchery-supported trout waters program.
The Bobby N. Setzer Hatchery was built in the late 1950s by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was operated as a national fish hatchery for more than 20 years. Since 1983, the Commission has operated and maintained the hatchery for trout production and distribution. During the mid-1990s, the Commission renovated and modernized the hatchery, adding a liquid oxygen aeration system that increased production capacity from about 175,000 pounds to 250,000 pounds of trout annually.
Bobby N. Setzer Hatchery maintains its own strains of brook, brown and rainbow trout broodstock. These fish supply the fertilized eggs used to produce successive generations of trout. Mature broodfish are spawned during October and November, and the fertilized eggs are maintained in incubators until hatching, usually 30-40 days. For the following year, the fish are given a nutritionally complete feed two to three times each day, and grow at a rate up to one inch per month. Sixteen months after the eggs are spawned, 10-inch trout are ready for stocking.
Bobby N. Setzer Hatchery stocks catchable trout in public mountain trout waters of 15 counties in western North Carolina. Brook, brown and rainbow trout are distributed among approximately 80 different streams and lakes using two-ton trucks with insulated transport tanks. Water recirculation and aeration provide life support for the fish during the transport, which may last eight hours or longer. Three distribution trucks annually complete more than 200 stocking trips, covering more than 36,000 miles.
Bobby N. Setzer Hatchery shares its site facilities with the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, which features interactive exhibits, education sites and interpretive displays explaining the various wildlife management activities of the Wildlife Resources Commission. The education center features a hatchery raceway exhibit that describes the trout production process in detail. Bobby N. Setzer Hatchery is located one mile off US 276 in the Pisgah National Forest near the town of Pisgah Forest. For more information, write to Bobby N. Setzer State Fish Hatchery, P.O. Box 728, Pisgah Forest, N.C. 28768 or call the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education at (828) 877-4423.
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