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One Fish at a Time - Raising Atlantic Salmon

June 6, 2013

Working in Green Lake Fish Hatchery is like living in a waterfall.  All day long we listen to the sound of rushing water as it pours from pipes and freshens the 46 tanks in the salmon nursery... all day long the dedicated biologists, assistants and volunteers (us) monitor, hand feed, clean and flush the tanks for the 900,000 tiny, little fry babies.

Green Lake Fish Hatchery

Cleaning involves opening a hatch to flush each incubating tank and while the water is rushing out, we quickly scrub the algae that forms constantly on the filter screens around the drain and gently move the fish poop and uneaten food through the screen to be carried away.The flush must end quickly, before the fry are put in danger by low water levels. Sadly, the task also involves removing and counting the morts1 using a small net.

Green Lake Fish Hatchery

The long process of cleaning and watching each tank creates a sort of zen mood. I find myself contemplating endangered species and the incredible amount of dedicated hand labor involved in the attempt to save this single wild species from extinction. There are men and women who have been working full time for years to care for and save this Fish... Salar - a fish of rushing forest streams and the cold, wild North Atlantic Ocean.

Thoughts tumble... the future of our planet... the expansion of one species... the death of another. Who is to blame? Is there blame? Is it because we built dams without fish ladders? Against the law even of that long ago day?

I scoop a multitude of tiny dead bodies every day and hope that they are surviving at a greater rate than in the wild... and yet a strange feeling of loss sinks around me.

Does a dog have a soul? A horse? A tiny fish? Is it only man who is made in some mystical, “his” image? What is the face of arrogance?  Is a hatchery salmon a wild salmon? Zen.

This week, the fry have already grown big enough to be moved to one of the much larger outdoor pools under the big top. The work of weighing and measuring the fry is underway... They are sized by the pound.

Green Lake Fish Hatchery

When the fry were first moved from the hatching trays to the indoor nursery tanks, there were about 2,200 fry per pound. With careful care, they have grown to be about 500 fish per pound and must be moved outside to the much larger pools in order to prevent overcrowding and to have room to grow larger.

Green Lake Fish Hatchery

Ok, I’m not young any more. We have spent hours installing the filter screens over the drains in the 34 20’ pools outside under the shaded bigtop. Damn, it was hard stuffing links of hemp around the edges to keep leaks from opening that might have sucked the young fish (parr) away. Our backs and my knees are sore, yet we relish the work.

1  Morts are the bodies of the fry who have failed to survive.

WOW - great to get a better sense of what you are doing with the fishes, impressive! Thank you for your volunteer efforts. Was saddened to learn of Esther William's death yesterday and thought of you, Peggy.


We never know what you will be doing next! If I didnt tell you we upgraded to a motor home, and it looks like we may be settling in Fla, when Tim retires either March or April 2014. Safe travels.

Rosie and Tim
Buffalo NY

Wow, you folks are glutens for punishment. No way my arthritic old body could do that. Good for you.,,I am restoring a Kinkade garden tractor that is rather unusual and I'm sure no relation to the artist of the same name. It was built in 1930 and has only one wheel. It was unearthed at the local farm museum that I have become involved with. Projects are good :>)


HOW fascinating! What a labor-intensive undertaking this is--a labor of love on your part--and all those others too. Who knew??

Does Sully have a soul? We know the answer to that. LOVE this and LOVE Little Leroy too--(though we didn't enter a name in competition :-))

We miss you in nyc


Good job! And poignant thoughts, Peggy. My life is not as adventurous and full of excitement as yours, but I think I do my part. In my ESL teaching I know I am helping a lot of young people get on the right path in life.

Timo and I are off to Egypt again. This time I hope to do excursions to Petra and Jerusalem. We have developed some great friendships with really fascinating Egyptians. It will be fun!

The transatlantic trip is awful, however, and the day will come when I will not be in the mood to undertake it ever again. So I strike the iron before it gets cold.


All of humanity blesses you for your labor, as well as the planet. On our tiny sphere, the fact that anything is alive is a miracle. Those of us who are lucky enough to have life and mobility should be looking out for the rest, as diversity is our strength and teacher.

Wish I was there with you!


Impressive! An alternate title for this blog piece might be "No Fish Left Behind" !!


Wow!! The place is amazing. I never realized how much hard work is involved in a fish hatchery. You guys sure get to experience so much in life.


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