The Western News
Hamilton, Montana, September 25,1919


Construction work began on Monday on the fish hatchery to be established by Marcus Daly. The hatchery is located on the Oleson ranch, some six miles southeast of Hamilton. Abundant water of the right temperature will be drawn from a spring on the old Talbert homestead on Skalkaho and piped to the hatchery.

The hatchery will occupy about two acres of ground and the plant will cost between $7,000 and $10,000 . It will have an output of two million per annum. The eggs will be brought here in tanks for hatching and the fry will be used to stock Marcus Daly's private lake and the streams throughout the valley. The hatchery is being erected under supervision of Mr. Keifer, formerly in charge of the hatchery at Columbia Gardens.

The Western News
Hamilton, Montana, July 15, 1920



"It's the best constructed fish hatchery in Montana and is supplied with a clear, pure spring water. I have been connected with fish hatcheries for years, at Somers, in Flathead county, the Madison, Yellowstone and other hatcheries but none of them are init with the Skalkaho hatchery. The U. S. government hatchery at Bozeman may be a little larger, but it is not so well constructed and nowhere in Montana do the natural conditions for fish culture so nearly approach the ideal as right here" Such was the enthusiastic declaration of T. S.
Woodford who is in charge of the Skalkaho fish hatchery recently completed by Marcus Daly. M. D. Kippen, chief engineer of the irrigation system of the Bitter Root Stock farm, supervised the work of construction.

Mr. Daly is an enthusiastic fisherman and is determined that the trout streams of the Bitter Root shall not lack for stock. By his direction the best natural location in the valley was sought out and the hatchery constructed regardless of expense

The hatchery is located on a five-acre plat of laud about three miles south east of Hamilton. The hatchery is housed in a frame structure 35x140 feet. The floor and some 40 hatching troughs are constructed of concrete. A large stream of clear running water is piped from a perpetual spring near by. This spring provides an abundant and never failing supply of clear water of just the right temperature. Living rooms for the Keeper and a "meat room" are partitioned off the west end of the building. The meat room is equipped with a grinder, driven by a gasoline motor, which prepares the food for the fish. The minnows subsist on a steady diet of liver, with occasionally a dash of salt.

The hatchery has a capacity of 7,000,000 and the troughs now hold 1,100,000 minnows of native trout that were brought from the Anaconda hatchery. The spawn was taken from Georgetown Lake.

These minnows will probably be planted in Fitter root streams about October 1. It is hoped that nursery ponds may soon be constructed so that the fish may be kept for about four months. These minnows become six-inch trout in about a year. Rainbow trout grow larger and more rapidly.

Speaking of Rainbow Mr. Woodford told of one held in captivity on the Madison that weighed 13 1\2 pounds. It had been photographed so often that it appeared to like it. It would actually pose and look pleasant "whenever a kodak was pointed at it."

Ravalli Republic and the Western News
Hamilton, Montana, April 13, 1977

Old Daly Hatchery sees revival as new business
By Cheryl Linduska

Marcus Daly Fish Hatchery - on Fish Hatchery Road near Hamilton Montana was erected in 1919 by Marcus Daly II, an avid fisherman and sportsman.  Until the hatchery closed in 1961, it was used to spawn rainbow, cutthroat and golden trout which were then packed - or dropped from the air - into valley sreams and lakesLarry McCrossin and Dave Jones, young Hamilton entrepreneurs, believe they have found the answer to the troublesome cattle market: switch from Tarantaise to trout.

The two have revitalized the old Marcus Daly Fish Hatchery on Skalkaho Road, where they are hatching Rainbow trout eggs in huge concrete tanks and raising fingerlings to maturity. Their objective: to provide supermarkets of the Northwest with fresh frozen trout.

Most Bitter Root boys (from 9 to 90) are more at home with a fishing pole than a shopping cart and may have trouble imagining people paying hard cash for trout; but the public, whether from lack of access or lack of interest in fishing, is willing to pay from 1.20 to 2.25 per pound for a rippled rainbow - and apparently their appetites are growing, the trout market at present is just about 40 percent saturated.

The hatchery tanks do not provide a complete picture of the fish raising business. McCrossin now has six "raceways," dirt troughs carved through his pasture land which measure 100 feet by 20, and he has more under construction. Jones plans to build about 10 raceways on his own property.

The two local men were inspired to pursue the new fisherman's angle when they learned of plans for a trout processing plant on the Jocho River near Arlee. They joined with 30 to 40 other men in forming a corporation to build such a plant, and they expect to see completion of the facility within one year.

The plant will process rainbow trout from several different hatcheries, then ship it frozen to markets primarily on the West Coast. Jones notes that there has also been interest from some East Coast firms.

Once the fish plant plans were under way McCrossin and Jones made arrangements to rent the old Marcus Daly Hatchery, idle since 1961 when the state closed it down. It is now owned by J. J, Stephenson.

Last spring, McCrossin dug the raceways on his property and stocked them with small fish: He now has 20,000 rainbow fingerling.

Then the two men bought 250,000 rainbow trout eggs from a hatchery in California, plus 40,000 live fingerling - about 1 1/2 inches long - from St, Ignatius. They had to reconstruct parts of the wooden pipe dating to the Daly era which brings water from a warm -water spring on McCrossin's property by the hatchery.

The fingerlings must stay in the hatchery tanks until they are two to two and one half inches long, a process which takes more than three months if they are hatched in the Hamilton facility. There is considerable economic advantage in hatching eggs rather than buying fingerlings, it was noted.

Although the local hatchery produced several varieties of trout in the past, the new partner's plan to raise only rainbows. This species can breed well in captivity, they note and enjoys the advantage of wide social acceptance. Everyone has heard of rainbow trout, but some in Chicago might link a cutthroat to the underworld.
A half-pound trout seems to fit best into most frying pans. In order to keep those frying pans full, the two men plan to produce one-half million market-sized rainbows in the next year, or at least 250,000pounds of trout.

They note that interest in the project is spreading, with some local packing plants thinking about the processing end of the business. "We should see a lot of hatchery operations in Western Montana," says Jones, since hatcheries are clean enterprises and suited to the clean, cold waters in this part of the state. Considerable water volume is also a necessary prerequisite. Ideal water temperature is 52 degrees, he says, while valley temperatures tend to be somewhat lower, in the high 40's.

Those interested in starting such a venture, say the two men should look for a year-round water source, control of the source and correct temperature. The warm-water spring used at the Daly Hatchery is ideal they note, because it also breeds crustaceans, a natural feed for trout. The men issued one warning: as fish ponds, human predation can be a problem.

Ravalli Republic and the Western News
Hamilton, Montana, April 13, 1977

By Cheryl Linduska

Marcus Daly II was an avid fisherman, as his old Bitter Root cronies well know and he didn't leave it up to Mother Nature to stock his favorite holes.

In September of 1919, he started construction of the Marcus Daly Fish Hatchery just off Skalkaho Road on what is now known as Fish Hatchery Road. The spacious building was graces, in typical Daly fashion, with a long tree-lined lane leading to the facility. It was filled with rows of cement tanks for hatching eggs and raising fingerlings to stocking size.

According to an account published in the Western News on September 25th 1919 the hatchery was to be used to stock both the Daly mansion lake northeast of Hamilton and various streams and lakes throughout the valley. "Abundant water" the account reads " will be drawn from a spring on the old Talbert homestead on Skalkaho and piped to the hatchery".

In fact, most of that old wooden pipe is still in place today and is being used by the new hatchery entrepreneurs to carry water from the same spring to the hatchery's fish tanks.

The Western News noted that the hatchery was to be built on two acres at an estimated cost of $7000 to $10000 with a predicted output of two million fish per year.

Sold to Montana

Marcus Daly II died in 1930 while on a duck hunting trip in Virginia, and his estate sold the fish hatchery to the State Of Montana on June 25, 1923 for $4500.00. It was the site of the Workers Progress Administration (WPA) project from 1936 - 1937.

WPA ERA - This stone marker  west of  the John Strnisha, who moved to Grantsdale with his parents as a small boy, remembers the building of the Daly Hatchery and the varied streams of activity there since 1919. In Daly's time, he says, the hatchery spawned a wide variety of fish including rainbow, cutthroat and golden trout in addition to sockeye salmon. Eggs were purchased from Flathead and Georgetown Lakes.

In those days, remembers Strnisha, the hatchery employees "thought nothing of dumping 2000,000 to one million fish in lakes or the Bitter Root River." One plant which was particularly interesting was that of small golden trout, since this species is extremely sensitive to water temperatures. Daly's managers found that Middle Kootenai Lake near Stevensville was ideal for the trout, and many transplants were made to that high mountain lake.

First manager for the sportsman's spawnery was a man by the name of Woodford, followed by John Sheehan who remained at the hatchery after it was purchased by the Sate of Montana. Another long-time employee was the Grantsdale native Bill Thomas, who served as assistant manager under several different regimes.

During the WPA Era, fish tanks at the hatchery were enlarged. Also, crews worked to improve the water supply for the facility which was limited until the 30's to the warm water spring east of the hatchery. The WPA men - using shovels and horses - dug several trenches near the springs storage tank in the swampy area of the pasture, tilling them and adding this drainage water to the springs supply.

First ponds on the hatchery property were built after the WPA project ended, according to Strnisha.

Packed in cream cans

Leo La Tray, who now lives at Somers, Montana, was foreman of the fish hatchery from 1951 to 1961 when the state was involved in a large scale planting program. He recalls packing bite-sized trout into high lakes of the Bitter Root, carrying 10 gallon cream cans on horseback. The Bitter Root River and various feeder streams were also frequently stocked during LaTray's tenure at the hatchery.

Game warden Courtney Taylor recalls a different method of stocking. He flew many airplane missions into the high Bitter Root lakes, spilling thousands of fish from tanks into the water below at a height of a few hundred feet. It didn't harm the fish Taylor says: "they just fluttered down like leaves"

Miles Romney Jr. editor of the Western News and avid sportsman was a staunch supporter of the fish planting program…and a staunch defender of the Daly Hatchery when the state threatened to close it in the early 60's. According to newspaper accounts from those years, the state found the Hamilton operation too costly and the growth rate of fish too slow in cold Bitter Root waters. It would be cheaper, officials argued, to transport planters from larger fish hatcheries such as those in Anaconda and Livingston to the Bitter Root's streams and lakes.

LaTray remembers that five or six smaller hatcheries in the state were closed at that time

Romney and other local sportsmen fought the state's move down to the last fin. None-the-less the Daly Hatchery was eventually closed in 1961.

On Jan, 10 1967, J.J. Stephenson bought the facility from the state for about $16,000. He started a small scale fish raising operation, but the costs proved prohibitive. He now rents the hatchery building to Larry McCrossin and Dave Jones, who are using the old building, old tanks and an old idea to start up a new business in the Bitter Root.

Instead of stocking valley lakes, however, they hope to stock supermarkets of the Northwest - a new twist to a sportsman's enterprise.

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