Historic view of Roxbury Fish Hatchery
Photograph courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society

  Interior of hatchery building
Photograph by Ann Cousins

The Roxbury Fish Hatchery was the first fish culture station in Vermont. Built in 1891, the fish hatchery was a response to Vermont's decreasing population of native fish. Deforestation, erosion, chemical and agricultural waste, and indiscriminate fishing practices had resulted in smaller and ever decreasing numbers of fish during the 19th century. When the State Legislature appropriated funding for the erection of a hatchery to repopulate Vermont's lakes and streams, the Roxbury site was chosen for its abundant spring water, proximity to the Central Vermont Railroad line, and the donation of land by a local individual, Hon. E. H. Spaulding.

The historic buildings of the fish hatchery are arranged in a park-like setting around a series of five ponds. The ponds are fed by a spring and water diverted to the site from Flint Brook. In 1891 fish culture meant procuring, incubating and hatching eggs, rearing the resultant fish, and introducing the matured fish to lakes and streams. Several structures were needed for this process, and those that remain from the 19th century are the 1891 hatchery, an 1894 ice house for fish food storage, and an 1897 carriage barn. The hatchery still houses the initial stages of the process, where fertilized eggs are placed in plastic hatching trays and incubated with a continuous flow of fresh water to provide adequate oxygen. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, tall glass hatching jars were used for this process. Today, hatched fish are kept in rearing troughs. When the fish reach 3 to 4 inches they are transferred to one of the ponds. In the spring fish are distributed to the State's waterways. When this was done by train and wagon, fish were transported in "fish cans" with perforated inserts for ice that provided oxygen to the fish as it melted. Today, they are distributed by trucks in large installed tanks.

The fish hatchery site also includes a 1935 storage barn, two circa 1937 stone barbeques, a 1960 biology lab, and a recent barn and residential trailer. The 1930s structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the barbeques indicate the popularity of the site with tourists throughout its history.

The Roxbury Fish Hatchery is on Rt. 12A, 2 miles south of Roxbury Village, on a narrow, ten-acre strip of land stretching between the highway and the Central Vermont Railroad line. The hatchery welcomes visitors to view the stocked fish, feed them, and picnic.

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