how we are going to do this. We plan on visiting some other sites in the state to see what improvements they have made,” particularly from a technological standpoint, he noted. Verdoliva said his team spent time last year visiting other hatcheries and plans on trekking to Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar this year. Five Rivers is not a hatchery, but the DEC-owned facility did undergo major upgrades several years ago. “We want to see some of the new technology that could be incorporated here,” he said. The hatchery is open from April 1 to the end of November, but only has seasonal staffing in the visitor’s center from the end of August to the end of November. “The hatchery visitor center is mostly set up to be self-touring,” he said. There is ample information at the center in the form of videos and literature for people to enjoy. “But I am sure there are other things that we can do to enhance that,” he added. “Our hope is at some point to have an underwater camera that would telecast both inside and outside the facility so that people can see fish as they come through the fish ladder,” he said. Kielbasinski said plans call for modifying walkways and viewing areas to allow guests a better glimpse of the returning fish during spring and fall runs. There is no Wi-Fi available at the facility, and the staff is hopeful of establishing cell phone service in the future. Meanwhile, spinoff business development has been continuing since the beginning of the hatchery. “Who would have thought there would be a Hilton hotel in Altmar, N.Y.?” asked Verdoliva, referring to the Tailwater Lodge and its Hilton brand. He recalls when people referred to the area as the “Alaska of the East,” he said. “If you have traveled to Alaska, it is a long and expensive trip,” Verdoliva said. “Today, within six hours of most metropolitan areas of the eastern U.S., the Salmon River Fish Hatchery is easily accessible, and for the cost of travel and lodging, a fishing license, and some tackle, you can experience fishing for salmon and trout that equals or surpasses that of Alaska, without having to worry about bears. Today, anglers visiting Oswego County will find modern tackle stores, lodging, restaurants, 58
Fish in a tank at Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar. marinas, experienced and professional river guides and lake charter services ready to serve them.
The largest number of people visit the hatchery to view the fall salmon migration, because that’s when fish are most visible. “We also have a fair amount that come in April to see steelhead — which is a migratory form of rainbow trout — return to the hatchery,” Verdoliva said. In between those times, there is a “pretty steady flow of visitors but not the masses of people” seen in the fall, he added. Verdoliva said over the past 10 years, people traveling to the St. Lawrence Seaway, Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks have visited the facility. Bus tours also make it a stop on their itineraries. “We have a steady flow of visitors all the time,” Verdoliva said. During the fall salmon and spring steelhead egg collections, “we get tremendous amounts of school groups touring the facility. This provides a wonderful educational opportunity not only for the kids, but for us. We get to let them know what we do, why we do it and how important the environments of the Salmon River, Lake Ontario and its tributaries are,” Verdoliva said. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
During the off-season, it is key to make guests aware of the best time to view adult salmon and steelhead along with the expected egg collection dates, with the hope that they return during that time. “It’s a destination point for people from around the globe, especially when we’re harvesting eggs and there are large fish in the facility,” he added. “They come to see big fish. In the summer, we don’t have big fish for visitors to view like we do during the fall. We do, however, have several well-made videos taken during the respective spawning operations that let off-season visitors experience the salmon and steelhead spawning runs as though they were actually there,” Verdoliva said. “During those spawning times, the hatchery becomes the focal point of the whole area. People focus on coming here to see fish, the facility, and to see what’s going on,” Kielbasinski added. “Many businesses benefit when visitors to the hatchery spread out into other parts of the county and region.”
Verdoliva and Kielbasinski addressed the key issue of creating the next generation of sports anglers. “If you look at the demographics, the population has aged. I go to lots of AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019