Printed on: November 26, 2013

Ashton hatchery to close

By JOYCE EDLEFSEN
news@postregister.com

ASHTON -- A 93-year-old Ashton institution is closing.

Most of the fish have been moved from the Ashton Fish Hatchery, and the manager has moved on as work wraps up there.

In the name of economic efficiency, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved an administrative decision by the Department of Fish and Game to close the small hatchery. Ed Schriever, chief of fisheries, said the decision makes sense as the department faces tighter budgets.

"Revenue is lagging," Schriever said, while expenses are increasing.

Finding efficiency is necessary to maintain the goal of the state's hatchery system, which is to provide sport fishing within the state. The state's hatchery system works to produce the right fish species at the right time in the right sizes.

The hatchery is among the smallest in the state's system. The decision to close it was a matter of efficiency of scale, Schriever said. Because of the savings resulting from the closure, Schriever said, the fish stocking program in the Fremont County area will not suffer.

"There will not be a change in the delivery of fish to Fremont County," he said. "The decision did not come easy. But this ensures we will be able to continue the level of services."

Ashton Hatchery Manager Christopher Jeszke was promoted to manage the Magic Valley Hatchery near Jerome. Paul Martin, who has worked at the Ashton Hatchery for many years, has been transferred to the American Falls Hatchery to continue to work as a fish culturist.

The fish programs in Ashton will be transferred to other hatcheries. Henry's Lake rainbows will be reared at the Mackay Hatchery, as will Arctic grayling, another specialty of the Ashton Hatchery. The hatchery also has produced cutthroat and brook trout, which also will be moved to other hatcheries for production.

The eight outdoor raceways, as well as the hatchery building with its incubator room and 21 concrete vats for fry and fingerling production, are in the process of being winterized. Only one batch of fish remained in Ashton last week.

The hatchery annually produced more than 250,000 fish weighing nearly 47,000 pounds combined, according to the Fish and Game Department's website.

It was not known what will happen to the state's hatchery property in Ashton.

"I don't see it reopening in the foreseeable future," Schriever said. "It will be mothballed and evaluated over the long term."