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A Hundred Years of Hatcheries on Display

In 1907 the first state-owned fish hatchery opened its doors at Hay Spur in central Idaho to produce trout for nearby waters.

Today the state has 21 hatcheries and a rich history of producing fish for anglers all over the state.

A museum exhibit, "A Century of Hatcheries," opens Wednesday, October 24, at the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello. The display showcases hatchery and fish stocking operations, an important part of the history of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

"It's who we are," said Sharon Clark of the Fish and Game fisheries bureau. "The Department of Fish and Game is such a unique agency anyway."

The museum exhibit evolved from a small display of artifacts put together by Fish and Game employee Mick Hoover to decorate the "feed room" of the Mackay Fish Hatchery, north of Arco. Among those treasures was an old postcard featuring a pack string of horses and mules hauling milk cans full of tiny fish to Idaho alpine lakes. This inspired Hoover to put out a call to other hatcheries in search of one of those antique milk cans.

He never uncovered any of the milk cans, but he did find a wealth of history - artifacts, documents, photos and memoirs - that evolved into the exhibit on display this month.

The exhibit has already been on display at the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls in 2006 and at the Idaho Historical Museum in Boise earlier this year.

Also featured in the Fish and Game display is historical aquaculture equipment, designed and built out of necessity at the fish hatcheries. The collection of equipment and historical photographs chronicle 100-year-old techniques for spawning and egg collecting, egg care until hatching, transporting fish eggs, fish feeding and diet development, and the eventual planting of mature fish via horseback, backpack, truck, boat, airplane and helicopter.

But before locations could be chosen for stocking, habitat suitability and water quality testing was performed with some of the equipment represented in the display.

Visitors can see historically significant items related to the infancy of the department, such as the 1899 proclamation by then-Gov. Frank Steunenberg appointing the first state game warden, Charles Arbuckle, and thus creating the department. A document embosser, more than 100 years old, shows the department's seal.

Previously unseen photos include a 1908 warden conference in Island Park and a 1916 group picture in Warden Leroy Jones' Statehouse office. A hand-written fish stocking ledger itemizes individual fish plants from 1913 through 1935 when the public did most of the stocking.

The exhibit opens with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m., Wednesday, October 24 at the Idaho Museum of Natural History, 5th Ave. and Dillon St. in Building 12 at Idaho State University, Pocatello. Museum admission will be free from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day.

After the Wednesday opening, the exhibit will be on display during museum hours, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturdays, except major holidays. Museum admission is $5 for adults, with discounts for seniors, students and children.

For more information, contact Teresa Nelson at the Idaho Museum of Natural History at 208-282-2603 or nelstere@isu.edu or visit the museum website at http://imnh.isu.edu.