Grand plans in store for Cherokee trout hatchery

The Cherokee Tribal Trout Hatchery is embarking on $500,000 renovation project that will more than double its already impressive capacity for raising trout.

Cherokee is known for its trout fishing due to the extremely well-stocked streams and rivers on the Reservation. Nearly 45,000 people fished in Cherokee last year, from tourists trying their hand for fun to pro-anglers seeking trophy-sized trout.

The hatchery renovations will bump trout production from 150,000 pounds annually to 350,000. In addition to stocking streams on the reservation, the tribe plans to supply trout commercially, further increasing its revenues from the operation.

“We are working to improve our numbers of fish by improving the raceways, the hatchery capacity and installing a liquid oxygen system to improve the quality of our trout,” said Robert Blankenship, the fisheries and wildlife manager.

The hatchery is 25 years old and was in need of general improvements anyway, said Forrest Parker, director of natural resources for the tribe.

Parker said the renovations are also aimed at stewardship. The renovations will allow for studies on improving aquatic habitat and preserving native brook trout populations.

The hatchery’s first priority, however, is rebounding from a devastating loss of trout during last year’s drought. The hatchery recently received a shipment of 440,000 trout eggs donated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Cherokee fishing season begins March 29.

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