Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Challenging year for Berkshire National Fish Hatchery


The Berkshire National Fish Hatchery in Hartsville-New Marlborough is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Click onto its web page,, and click onto the Hatchery Timeline to follow its history from its beginning as a hatchery in 1916.

The hatchery actually shut down in 1994. In 1996, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) initiated discussions with others to re-open it.

In 1999, a Memorandum of Agreement between USFWS and the Western Massachusetts Center for Sustainable Aquaculture at Hampshire College was signed, paving the way for the facility to be re-opened. The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation formed and signed a formal agreement with the USFWS in 2006.

The Foundation's mission is "To identify and deliver educational projects, raise funds, and work jointly with the USFWS to maintain, protect and improve fish populations, habitat, watersheds and ecosystems through increased public awareness, appreciation and understanding of the benefits of conservation of these important natural resources." The Foundation works in cooperation with the USFWS to support research and development of fish species.

In March 2007, the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery was recognized in the nation's capital as the only federal fish hatchery to be run completely by volunteer staff. George Emmons, LeRoy Thorpe, John Doelman, Phil Gunzinger and others were instrumental in establishing the Foundation. Emmons recently retired and the others have since passed beyond the river bend.

George Emmons served 20 years on the Berkshire Hatchery Foundation Board. He served as its chairman, treasurer and clerk simultaneously! He was instrumental in getting the Lobster Fest started, youth fishing derbies, scholarships, etc. He established and supervised the Foundation's day-to-day operations. He and his wife, Jan, have moved and settled on the South Shore in Mattapoisett to be near their children.

David Ziegler, of Monterey, was elected to serve as the new chairman, replacing Emmons. He has served on its board for many years and has been heavily involved in set-up arrangements for the Lobster Fests, children's fishing derbies, etc. Linda Thorpe, also of Monterey, was elected treasurer/clerk. She also has been a long time board member and strong supporter of the Foundation.

The on-site USFWS staff, Jeff Mosher and Tom Reeves, maintained the facilities in good condition and of course, spawned out and raised lake and brook trout.

The lake trout, which are raised in the Berkshire Hatchery, play an important role in reestablishing/sustaining lake trout in the Great Lakes. The success ratio of spawned to hatched fish is phenomenal, and is a testimony to the superb water quality bubbling up on Hatchery property. The Hatchery has been raising primarily the Klondike strain of lake trout, but this year it will begin raising the Seneca strain of lake trout.

Over 17,000 brook trout were raised this year and Jeff Mosher has arranged and transported most of them to the 26 fishing clubs which conducted derbies open to the public. The Hatchery cannot solicit sale of fish, but the Foundation can receive volunteer donations to help cover costs needed to produce the fish. The receipt of these donations enables it to provide two environmental scholarships to local students, periodically stock nearby rivers with brook trout and conduct outdoor and educational activities.

Mosher has taken on a new position in a USFWS hatchery in Wisconsin. Although the Board was saddened to learn of his departure, it was pleased to hear of his promotion and wish him, his wife Kirsten and their expected baby the very best. He will be missed. Clubs wishing to obtain brook trout from the hatchery in the future should contact USFWS staff member Tom Reeves.

During this past year, the Hatchery supplied the Micmac (North Eastern Native American tribe) with 800 lbs. of lake trout that had to be culled due to space restrictions. They drove down from Maine with ice boxes and processed the fish onsite. They then took their 800 lb. bounty to the elders of the tribe where they ceremoniously reminded their people of the heritage and diet habits of their ancestors.

The Hatchery Foundation will be sponsoring other events during the summer, including monthly fishing derbies, hosting summer camp and Cub Scout camping trips and Monterey Days activities, so be sure to periodically check out its web page or Facebook page for details. The next kids derby will be on Saturday, Aug. 20 at the lower pond.

With the departure of George Emmons and Jeff Mosher, this year will be a challenging year for the Board of the Hatchery Foundation. Added to that, the USFWS staff will be reduced to one person (Tom Reeves). Although challenged, the Board is committed to continue the above-mentioned successful programs. It could use a few good people to help out.

You might want to celebrate its 100th anniversary and attend its Lobster Fest on Aug. 21 at the hatchery. Catered by The Other Brother Darryl's seafood store, it will feature a beverage, raw clams and oysters, steamed clams, clam chowder, a lobster, corn on the cob, baked potato, etc. Cost is $65 per person. There will also be one or two guest speakers, to be named later.

Incidentally, the Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, so donations are tax deductable and graciously accepted.


On Wednesday, July 27 from 3 to 6 p.m., the Housatonic Valley Association will be conducting a free introduction to canoeing on a flat water stretch of the Housatonic River in South Lee. Canoes and equipment provided.

Learn how to safely enter and exit a canoe, the basic strokes, appropriate attire and pre-trip preparation. Enjoy a short paddle upstream to enjoy beautiful views of Beartown State Forest. Families with children 6 years-plus welcome.

Program support provided by Housatonic Heritage. Preregistration required. Call HVA at (413) 394-9796 or email

Questions/comments: Phone: (413) 637-1818.


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