Funds for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery (formerly the Pittsford National Fish Hatchery) were authorized by Congress 34 Statute 721, June 30, 1906. That year the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries built a small rearing station on this site to grow brook trout during the summer months. For three years fish were grown in sixty wooden troughs supplied with water from the brook and spring. In 2006, the hatchery celebrated its 100 years of operation with a centennial celebration.
In 1909, the land was purchased and the hatchery opened for the production of salmonids (trout, char, and salmon). From 1925-1940 it was an experimental station, raising California golden trout, cut throat trout, and rainbow trout, brown trout, Loch Levlen trout, lake trout, brook trout, Arctic char, and Arctic grayling. From 1940 to 1981 it was a production facility raising brook, brown, and rainbow trout for the waters of Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire. Fish were also produced for the Farm Pond Program.
The rearing of sea-run Atlantic salmon for the Connecticut
River Restoration Program was begun in 1970. In 1974 the first salmon
in over a century returned up the river to spawn. The first tagged
salmon to ascend the Connecticut River was produced by Pittsford
(Eisenhower) and tagged by Mrs. Katherine Sivret of Chittenden. Eisenhower
NFH was responsible for most of the returns including 1981 when the
largest number of fish returned.
In 1991, an estimated 10,000 anglers spent 566,202 angler days in pursuit of the Landlocked salmon on Lake Champlain, contributing 50 million dollars to the Region's economy through both durable and non-durable purchases (Gilbert 1991). Pittsford (Eisenhower) NFH produced approximately 60% of the Landlocked salmon produced for Lake Champlain from 1980 to 2005.
Eisenhower's gravity-fed water supply is not pumped or chilled, making it one of the least expensive hatcheries in operating costs. The primary water supply, Furnace Brook, provides natural temperature variance and seasonal fluctuations (siltation, hardness, pH) that closely approximate what the fish would encounter in nature. Furnace Brook is a clean, soft water stream with high oxygen content. The water temperature fluctuates seasonally, which results in fish better adapted to their natural environment. Data from water chemistry analyses are available dating back to 1952.
In the past 30 years, water temperatures in Furnace Brook have ranged from a high of 77 degrees F to a low of 32 degrees F. A new water heater, installed late in 1996, provides some ability to increase water temperatures during key growth stages of fish reared at the hatchery. Normally, 1200 gallons water/minute flow through each pair of raceways. When adequate water supply is available, raceway flows can be adjusted using a valve. Two wells, rated for 650 gallons water/minute and 300 gallons water/minute, can be used to augment the water supply. The well water stays at a constant temperature of 47 degrees F. A 350 gallon per minute spring can supply water 47 degrees F to the raceway water supply. The spring and wells are cold, clean, hard water with super saturation of nitrogen often in excess of 110%. The super saturation of nitrogen is corrected by degassing the water using packed columns.
Furnace BrookFurnace Brook above the Pittsford Hatchery has a relatively sparse vertebrate species composition, primarily due to its short length and a barrier dam at the hatchery water intake. Wild populations of brook, brown, and rainbow trout, descended from pre-1960 stocking from Pittsford and other Vermont hatcheries, dominate the fish community.
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation's Water Quality Division collected invertebrate data in Furnace Brook near the Hatchery in 1991. The taxonomic orders Diptera, Ephemeroptera and Trichoptera comprised approximately 30%, 37% and 24% of the samples, respectively.
There are 40 outside concrete raceways (20 paired sets) currently in operation at the Hatchery. All forty raceways in use are covered because of the susceptibility of salmon to sunburn. These raceways are approximately 100 feet long by 8 feet wide. Water depths range up to 22 inches.
The only incoming source of water for the raceways is at the head end of raceways No.1 and No. 2. The water then flows sequentially through the other raceways in the series and into the drain.
Several unused earthen raceways on the hatchery property are spring fed. These raceways have not been used for many years. Some of them drain into Furnace Brook upstream from the hatchery water intake, but they could potentially be diverted to enter downstream from the water intake.