39 & 42. Quinebaug and Burlington Trout Hatcheries

Trout Fishing in America
Plainfield and Burlington
(Satellite Images: Plainfield & Burlington)
February 2 and March 21, 2008 with March 2013 Update!

mq39a.jpgRight off the bat, no, I have not read “Trout Fishing in America” (nor do I plan to) and I’m not a fan of the wacky folk artists of the same silly name. And I don’t fish either. In fact, I’ve never been fishing in my life save for the few times my dad stuck a rod in my hand when I was seven on some random pond in West Virginia. I vaguely recall a picture of me as a little kid holding a sunfish, but I could be mistaken.

And yet, I took ichthyology in college and really enjoyed it. (So much so I think I got an A.) Moreover, I took “Principles of Fisheries Management” which I mq39b.jpgreally enjoyed and definitely got an A. I had some grand plan to study such things, plus aquaculture and genetics, and to use my knowledge to genetically alter the Homarus americanus – that is, American lobster – to breed out the inborn aggression and grow nice fat tails while I was at it.

To date, this has not really been successful yet so lobsters are still caught at the bottom of the Gulf of Maine and continue to be expensive and on the decline. If I had stuck with that plan, and I was actually successful, suffice it to say I’d be quite rich right now. Oh well. That would have required hard work and persistence – two things I wasn’t too keen on at the age of 22.

mq39c.jpgSo why is any of this the least bit interesting? Because… um… because at one point I almost agreed to a paid internship at the Quinebaug Trout Hatchery during college and thought that would have just been the coolest thing. But then I realized I needed a car and that wasn’t about to happen at the time, so I kept my on-campus job.

The state has three hatcheries – one in the eastern part of the state in the Central Village part of Plainfield and one in the northwestish part out in the pine forests of Burlington. I had thought these two would be exactly the same with the exact same state mandated displays and exact same number of pools, etc. I was very wrong.

mq39d.jpg(The third is in Kensington and from what I gather, not open to visitors.)

This meant that my original (hilarious) idea of having someone else pose in the exact same pictures as Ed and I did in round one in Plainfield was a bust. Oh well… Ed and I stopped by the Quinebaug hatchery during a day-long CTMQ tour and were surprised to find the large parking lot completely empty, save for one lone pickup.

We entered and were alone. One of the largest hatcheries in the East, this place produces 380,000 pounds of trout annually. The museum portion of the hatchery is self-serve and somewhat small. But it’s chock-full of good info on trout and other freshwater fish of Connecticut. And, more importantly, lots of information regarding the Quinebaug hatchery!

Things like, “Over six million gallons of water are used daily to keep the water of the hatchery clean, cool, and well-oxygenated.” This is twice the volume needed for Middletown per day. Seven wells can supply nine million gallons per day, and there are untapped wells to boot.

mq39i.jpgThere was a long explanation of how this isn’t wasteful and described the unique geology of the area. I guess I buy into it.

Traditionally, hatchery rearing pools have consisted of long, narrow raceways. Back in the day, circular pools were experimentally tried at the Burlington and Kensington hatcheries with great success, so that’s how the entire Quinebaug was built. The advantages are that the pools have evenly distributed temperatures and currents. The key to hatchery success is uniform EVERYTHING throughout.

We weren’t allowed into the area where they take care of the tiniest of trout, and the worker in there eyed us warily throughout our visit. What, you mean you don’t often get two guys taking 20 pictures here?

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The Quinebaug hatchery rears trout: brown, brook, and rainbow. There is a display on how hatchery workers squeeze out the 3000 eggs and then fertilize it with the milt of the male trout. Ridiculously, Ed turned away in disgust at the picture. There were other displays on the current record trophy fish of Connecticut and a few other small little things on invasive species and local natural history.

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Once back outside, we checked out a few viewing ponds that were very difficult to view. They have black bottoms so as to camouflage the fish from predatory birds and try as you might, even though there are foot long trout 3 feet away, they are near impossible to see.

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We peered out over the vast array of rearing pools, gave each other a fist bump, and hit the road. Minus the fist bump part.

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Quinebaug Trout Hatchery Revisit
March 23, 2013

fh2So there we were, now a family of four driving out lovely Route 14 towards Sterling, when I suggested to Damian, “Do you want to go see some fish?”

“Yeah! Papa! Yeah!”

Hoang eyed me warily – for we were on our way to get ice cream at Ekonk Hill Dairy – but the detour north up to the hatchery is only a couple minutes. And, it can’t be denied, our boys love watching fish.

Once again, the place was completely empty. That was fortuitous, because our youngest one, Calvin, was intent on crossing every single gate/chain he could find. What is it with 2-year-olds?

The place hasn’t changed at all, save for a few updated record fish pictures and I believe they no longer allow little kids to fish the trout ponds like they used to.

The fish in the display tanks look sad and tired, but as a place to learn stuff about the state’s trout stocking programs, it is still a stellar visit.

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Connecticut guy caught the world record striper off of Westbrook since my first visit!

Our boys loved it, despite the tiny size, relatively few fish, and impossible to see outdoor pool fish. So the lesson here is that little kids can have fun pretty much wherever you go – so just go.

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The idea here is that the guy in the picture behind Hoang is impossibly handsome. So she’s swooning for him and his fish. It didn’t really work though.

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Burlington Trout Hatchery
March 21, 2008

And so it was, several weeks after Ed and I visited the Plainfield hatchery, I found myself out along Route 4 with Hoang on a sunny March day. I was scouting parking spots for my Tunxis Trails hikes and decided to make a quick stop at the hatchery.

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A decided lack of information plagues the Burlington hatchery

But before we got there, an aside. It must be noted that the following sign was stuck to a gas pump at the intersection of Routes 44 and 167 in Simsbury (though you’d guess it to be Canton):

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“It’s not works”

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The Burlington Hatchery building

I just had to mention that. We drove on… fortunately we had a full tank of gas. Once there, deep in the pine forests of Burlington, I immediately said that this place has a completely different feel. It’s almost like a Boy Scout camp of some sort.

mq42b.jpgThere were other visitors here, at least, but they quickly disappeared up a trail. Hoang and I went to the building, which was also completely devoid of people. We walked in, looked at a bunch of baby fish, and… that was that. There were no displays, no cool live fish tanks, no nothing. Of course, I did note the rectangle raceway rearing ponds here.

Back outside, we walked up the slight incline to look at the pools of fish and Hoang pretended to be interested. To sum up, the Plainfield (Quinebaug) operation is slick, huge, flat, open, antiseptic. The Burlington one is homey, quaint, hilly, and forested. Both have their positives (Quinebaug: displays, Burlington: location) and while my defining them as museums is tenuous at best, I can’t go back now.

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The impossible to see trout at Quinebaug

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The equally impossible to see trout at Burlington

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The raceways at Burlington

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Back to Top

Cost: Free
Hours: Daily 8-3:30
Food & Drink? Hmm… pan fried trout almondine while camping along the nearby Tunxis?
Children? Sure
You’ll like it if: You love the smell of pine and fish
You won’t like it if: You are an eagle, stymied by the netting over the pools
Freebies: None

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For the Curious:

Burlington Hatchery
Ichthyology

3 responses to “39 & 42. Quinebaug and Burlington Trout Hatcheries”

  1. Elaine says:

    I have always wanted to visit a fish hatchery…I have no idea why. Now that I’ve read about your experiences I no longer have that urge.(I’m cured!) I thought somehow that they would be just a tad more exciting?…Well, thanks for the info and for doing the research for me. I think I’ve dodged a bullet here. ha ha
    By the way, I love how you write…interesting topics; humor and pictures..everything I need.
    Thanks,
    Elaine

  2. amy says:

    Went to the trout hatchery in Plainfield today with a group of friends. Thanks for the information- we enjoyed our visit very much (although we understand they must not get many visitors – we got the confused looks too!). They have updated the tanks at the front, and the in-ground tanks out back are closed for renovation. The fish in the front tanks were certainly more active for us than it seemed they were for you- maybe the new tanks make them happier!

  3. John says:

    Nice write-up. I fish the Moosup river trout management area behind the hatchery and have never actually visited the hatchery itself. I do know that the childrens’ farm pond at the end of the road is still open for abour 3/4 of the year for children under the age of 16, and is stocked regularly. A great place to have a child catch their first trout.

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