GREAT FALLS – The fish hatchery at Giants Springs State Park get their water flow from the springs.
The water comes out of the ground from approximately 300 feet deep and the water is 54 degrees all year long, which definitely keep things going during the colder months.
Fall is the season when the hatchery gets most of their eggs for the spring planting.
Giant Springs Hatchery is a production fish hatchery, meaning they get all of their eggs from their brood hatcheries. The hatchery raises rainbow and brook trout.
By December, the hatchery will have about three quarters of a million eggs and 80-90% of these eggs will remain alive through their release.
On typical years, 700,000 rainbow trout are raised and 60,000 brook trout.
The hatchery then tries to release the fish into the same environment they came from, trying to get them into water temperatures also around 54 degrees. Prime time for this would be early spring or late fall.
Matt Wipf, a fish culture specialist who works at the hatchery said, “So our main focus in the wintertime is to make sure our feed projections are on point so that when we’re feeding those fish, they’re growing according to how we projected them to grow, making sure that they’re meeting requirements for the lakes and the reservoirs that those fish are going into in the spring and fall.”
During harsh winters, for example last year’s 2017-18 season, when the snow and ice pile up on the ponds, many fish end up dying due to the depletion of oxygen. Hatcheries then have to re-introduce the fish back into the pond, which takes a lot of time and expense.
Reporting by Kasey Herman for MTN News