Hatchery Shutdown Delayed
Inside the Outdoors, April 5
, 2013

When the news came over my desk that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission decided to move the date forward to 2017 to possibly close down Oswayo and Bellefonte Hatcheries, I was so very happy for all the business people who cater to tourists coming to the Laurel Highlands. This area is special, and should always be considered as so. We have 77 miles of ridges cradling streams in the valleys of the mountains. In this richness of flowing waters are a variety of species containing aquatic life, not only trout, but also different species that lend themselves to maintenance of overall health of clean waters.

For countless years, travelers have come from visiting states to enjoy the great outdoors we have outside our back doors. By closing down the hatcheries, this would minimize the people visiting the towns, shops and even staying in motels and hotels along the way.

So, when the announcement was made about a special meeting held in Harrisburg to consider possibly keeping the hatcheries open to 2017, it gave great relief to many.

According to Steve Ketterer, president of the Board of Commissioners, “Since the Board voted in January to close the two hatcheries, staff and Commissioners have met with member of the General Assembly to try to identify opportunities to secure long-term funding sources, we have voted to keep the hatcheries open while we pursue these opportunities.”

It gets better…

In another statement made by Commissioner Glade Squires, he said, “I move that we restore funding for the continued operation of both trout hatcheries until the July 2015 PFBC meeting and that we continue to work with senators and representatives to secure funding for the other areas of our budget previously identified to be reduced or eliminated.”

I can only imagine, I wasn’t the only person confronting Executive Director John Arway, head of the PFBC, on this matter. And speaking to Commission Rocco Ali on the matter at the Monroeville Convention Center at that time, I felt as though I hadn’t made a dent in reforming his ideas on the matter when he stated, “We have to make cut somewhere and that’s that!”

It was so wonderful to read that the motion passed by a unanimous vote.

Originally back in the latter part of January, it was announced that the two hatcheries would close by the end of 2014 as part of a budget plan to save $9 million annually over the next four years. Escalating health-care and retirement obligations for employees took a large chunk of that figure approximating somewhere in the neighborhood $6.7 million.

Another $2.3 million is required for infrastructure needs, such as maintenance and repairs at remaining hatcheries, other facilities and boating access areas. “Closing the two hatcheries would save approximately $2 million annually,” the press release stated.

“We’re thankful that the General Assembly has recognized the fiscal situation we’re in and has expressed willingness to help us reach a solution,” said Arway. “However, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that we must still find $9 million in annual savings or revenue over the next four years.”

The Oswayo State Fish Hatchery is located in Coudersport, Potter County, and Bellefonte is in Centre County. Each has nine employees. The PFBC said at the time of the closure announcement that the hatchery employees would not be furloughed, and would be offered jobs at other facilities.

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Just a note to entice you thinking more catches and release by turning to fly-fishing this spring. I’ve been reading a number of articles on the subject, the latest from the Pennsylvania Outdoor News, by Richard Tate. Just to leave you with a little tip. He suggests using nymphs during the early spring. He claims they work best. His favorites are Hare’s Ear and Copper John. You may have ones that have worked well for you. Why not share them with me so I can get the word out what’s well around here.

Remember that I’m the novice who wants to learn. There is nobody better than my readers, so I am depending on you. E-mail me and let me know. Make sure you note “favorite flies” in the subject box.

Keep in mind Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited’s goal – Conserve, restore and educate – something we all should keep in mind as we venture out into our wilderness areas.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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