Kaatscast: the Catskills Podcast
March 29, 2022

Beaverkill Trout Hatchery: Farming Trout for 5 Generations

Beaverkill Trout Hatchery: Farming Trout for 5 Generations

Beaverkill Trout Hatchery is family owned and operated by the Shaver family since 1963. We met Sherry Shaver and a few of her relatives on a recent visit to the hatchery, where they were preparing for their busiest season, as fishing clubs order thousands of fish to stock streams and ponds, plus direct sales to area restaurants, and the public.

Thanks to our sponsors: The Mountain Eagle and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce

--- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/kaatscast/support


My name is Sherry Shaver and welcome to the Beaverkill Trout Hatchery in Lew Beach slash Livingston Manor, New York. Beaverkill trout hatchery is family owned and operated by the Shaver family since 1963. We met Sherry Shaver and a few of her relatives on a recent visit to the hatchery where they were preparing for their busiest season, as fishing clubs order 1000s of fish to stock streams and ponds, plus direct sales to area restaurants and the public. This hatchery was founded by my great grandfather Fred Shaver back in 1963. The partnership was formed with his son Edwin Shaver and my father Gary Shaver in '63. So this business is going to be 60 years old next year. We had a dairy farm here my Uncle Larry did back into about '67. I think that one out and then he had beef cattle. Prior to that, though, they used to grow cabbage and take into New York City. My great grandfather actually was a caretaker and farmer for the Quill Gordon club upstream on the Beaverkill. So our original hatch house was up that and not on our farm. It wasn't until about '80 that we built the hatch house here. But they built all these ponds that you see; laid the groundwork for us the fourth and fifth generations. We're the largest private trout hatchery in New York State, and we've worked hard to get where we are. Our primary business is live haul, live delivery for stocking, for fishing clubs, private pond owners, Lake owners. We're all over New York state all the way to Wilmington, and all the way down into Ivoryton, Connecticut. We are also selling the restaurants; you'll see us on many locally in the Catskills. What are the trout varieties that are living in the Beaverkill River as opposed to the varieties that you're hatching here. Okay, in the river you would find brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and probably tiger trout that have could've been hatched wild; unusual, but it could happen. Here we have brook, brown, rainbow, golden rainbow, and tiger trout. We stocked the whole Beaverkill River from one end to the other; browns and rainbows for the all the private fishing clubs. Now occasionally they'll get a couple golden rainbows just for effect but the eagles pick them out and pick them off very fast around here. There's a eagle on that tree right there. Immature Eagle right there see that? Usually we have two matures around here during the day. Do you like to see them or not? I do but they're really fishing the Beaverkill hard. These fishing clubs; it's not unusual for us to be stocking and for them to be flying off with trout as people are staying in there. So God bless America, there goes another 30 bucks. And then also a growing number of restaurants. How far does that range? Locally, we're probably an hour away. I think most of the restaurants are. We could do more, but we just don't have the time to really go after right now. Because when we get busy here, I mean, we're on a nonstop seven days a week to delivering and we also do a lot of kids fishing contests. You do different things here. How does it change throughout the year? Well, our stocking becomes really hot between the third week in March. That'll run pretty hot till June; till the water temperatures start to warm up. We also have a fishing pay pond here where people can come and fish in a big pond that's covered with ice still up here and bring their own pole their own bait and pay for what they catch. That's open Saturdays and Sundays from eight to five starting the first Saturday in April, providing the ice is off. What kind of gear do you suggest they bring up? Worms and barbers is the safest, and if you're bringing children that's the safest. Less hooks. We've had many children catch their first fish here. Kids that are 50 years old remember covered here; you know, when they were little. So it's it's really great. What's the likelihood of catching or not catching a fish? It's like fishing anywhere else. People think it's like fishing in a barrel, but it's not. If they're not biting on the Beaverkill, they're not going to be biting in that pond. It's the weather. It's the barometric pressure, the temperature, everything. Fishing here on the property; another benefit is that you don't need a license. Right, because it is a preserve. And as opposed to fishing in the wild, you must keep the fish that you catch. That's right. We also have a roadside stand, where people that don't want to fish, that still want to buy fish, can just stop in and the attendant will clean them right on the spot and away you go with your fish. We also have smoked trout available. That'll be the end of May, and that will continue to Labor Day. The pond and the stand close. You're always guaranteed to finish one way or the other. I should mention also, when they come to visit that cell phones do not work here. So know your directions before you start out. And it's cash or check; no cards when we do not have an ATM machine. Probably about 15 miles away is the closest one. So be prepared. Like a lot of the Catskills? Right. And then what happens in the winter? Winter times historically, everything was put away. We didn't do anything. But now we're fishing at least once a week for restaurants. It's 10 below zero. We're breaking ice and getting in; and it's keeping us busy, which is good. Wow, so even the Beaverkill trout that we're eating off of a menu in the dead of winter is fresh. Yes, it is. Yes, it is; less than 24 hours from here to the restaurant that's going to be selling it. Any sense of how many fish come out of this facility every year? Oh wow; we probably stock easily 100,000. Easily. And is it a predictable business? Or what are some of the challenges in raising and distributing life fish? The biggest challenge we have is mother nature. The weather; we're at her mercy every day. Whether it be a flood, a drought, the phone could ring and somebody could want 1,000 fish today from someplace I've never heard of. Most of my customers we've had for 30 to 40 years. So you can always depend on them coming back, but the new people it's hard to say. Most of the facilities outdoors and then patching the fish happens inside or how does that work? Yes, we have the hatch house. I'll take you a little trip up there to take a look at that with all of our babies in there. Let's take a look. Okay. On our walk to the hatch house, we passed holding ponds where trout are segregated by species and size. Now fish that we're looking at right now, this is a sizable trout. So these aren't used for stalking, these are for the restaurants. Both. Both? Yeah, we sell mostly all 12 inch rainbows to the restaurants. But when we go to put an order up, one person gets in with the waiters and the same, and walks like around the outskirts of the pond. And this person's over here with waiters, and they both come together, pull the net and then we start pulling the bottom to pull the fish together. And then we dip them out with a hand net into a box and every fish is hand graded with a quarter of an inch. So if you're gonna buy a 12 inch fish, loving the three quarters to 12 and a quarter. A lot of labor here. So then those fish are put into the holding bends, and we then load that order onto a cart with a tank that has water and a gas powered motor for aeration and move them to the holding area up here to another net. So tomorrow morning, the truck that's going out comes up, loads his water, knows which nets of fish are his. Whether it be 135; and again those fish are lifted loaded onto that truck and away they go. No matter if these fish are bound for restaurants or to stock streams and ponds, they all start out in the hatch house where we saw 1000s of tiny trout swimming and growing in long open tanks. They look like oversized chafing dishes, minus the heat. These are all brown trout. These are all rainbow trout. And how old are these fish right here? These hatched out in January. What's the process of going from egg to this state here? Usually right around Columbus Day, we sort the right females. All we do is just cradle them like touch their belly and the eggs will start out. So we'll bin them up. And the next day we'll start expressing their eggs into a dish pan. We'll take about three females and then we'll take two males to get the milk or sperm, fertilize them. They're put in a bucket and brought here; and we have these egg baskets, so they're put into the baskets and then the tedious job of picking the dead eggs comes into play. Daily. When the egg dies, it turns white. And if we don't pick those out, they'll get like a fungus and attach themselves to the other eggs, you end up with a big mess. So we sit in here with an ear syringe and pick, turn the radio on; and that goes on for about six weeks, eight weeks. And once they hatch, they're pretty dormant for a good um, probably month feeding off the egg sack before they actually swim. What's the range of sizes you can buy for stocking? Six inches to twenty-some inches. Do people who stalk their own creeks and ponds have better luck with survivability rate with a certain size or doesn't matter after six inches? It doesn't matter; depends on what their goal is. If they want a fish to eat, you're going to want something bigger than six inches, probably 10 or 11 inches even 12 inches. You really want to fund fish, then you put some bigger fish in. It all depends on you know what you want to do. Some people just buy fish and put them in their pond just to have them and enjoy feeding them and don't even fish for them make pets out of them. Thinking about stocking your own stretch of creek or spring-fed pond? You can buy 106 inches for $1.80 apiece. Looking for something ready for eating? 10 inches run $3.75 per hundred. 12 inches are $5.50. Or how about just a couple of trout for the dinner table? They range from $15 for a 15 inches to $35 for a 20 inch fish. When we come back, why landowners and fishing clubs stalk their creeks in the first place. Sherry Shavers thoughts on the future of the business. Plus, we'll catch up with a few more members of the Shaver family and a secret about their own personal trout consumption. This episode is sponsored by the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce; providing services to businesses, community organizations and local governments in the Central Catskills region. Follow the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce on Facebook. You can sign up as a business member and subscribe to a weekly email of local events at centralcatskills.org. Kaatscast is also supported by the Mountain Eagle; covering Delaware, Greene, and Schoharie counties, including brands for local regions like the Windham Weekly, Schoharie News, and Catskills Chronicle. For more information, call 518-763-6854 or email, mountaineaglenews@gmail.com. Can you talk a little bit about the need for stalking creeks and how that may not have always been the case? Well, I think it's important to realize a lot of these members of these fishing clubs pay a lot of money to belong. So they want to catch fish. The rivers themselves take quite a pounding from predators; eagles, bears, otters, mink. So to up the ante, I guess it's best for them to stock. What we did find a year in the pandemic, a lot of people putting fish in their own pond for a food source as cheap entertainment and to get something to eat as well. Are there any diseases or anything you have to watch out for? Oh yes, that's why it's best to raise in concrete and then keep them in there for like a year before we put them into dirt. Do you ever have to treat them antibiotics, that kind of thing? No. Salt is a good friend of ours. Salt is very effective for a lot of things. To keep them healthy, they got to have room. So these guys are going to be out of here. Hopefully next week, we'll be moving them out. Getting ready to move our babies out of the hatch house. But we'll be selling off what you saw down front. They'll be gone. It's like a big circle, except we're selling off the big end. What's the difference in taste between all the varieties that you have here? The rainbows, let's say if we're comparing to other fish, would be like flounder. The brook trout would be more like a salmon and the brown trout or earthy tasting but most people like the rainbow trout. What do you like best? I don't eat trout. Shrimp, clams, and lobster is good for me. I just have seen enough trout that I really don't want to eat it. Is that the biggest secret here? That you don't eat trout? Sherry's nephew Tyler explains that sentiment. My name is Gary Tyler Shaver. I go by Tyler. Been working here for eight years; I grew up here. A lot of long days, but it's good. I enjoy being here. I enjoy carrying on the family tradition. It's fun being able to say that I'm a fifth generation trout farmer. I enjoy working with my family. Their aunt says she's not a trout eater. Do you like trout? Haven't eaten a trout since I was eight. Really? Yeah. Do any of the Shavers eat trout? Not really. Just around too much? Yeah. It's kind of like we're gonna McDonald's; if you smell it all day, you don't want it after work. We caught up with one Shaver who's interaction with trout hasn't spoiled his taste for it; Sherry's cousin, Chris. I do eat the trout. Oh, you do? Oh, yes. I love the trout. She makes awesome smoked trout. It's probably the best I've ever had. I do like it like in the foil. I've also sauteed I made a Trout Amandine before where you just basically cover it and crushed almonds, trout stock with heavy cream, you know, reduced down over it, spaghetti squash; makes a good dish. Do you fish? Not much. You know, after a day of handling fish all day, I don't get a chance to. We do have the preserve pond. And if I'm not busy, I'll throw a line out there and see what I can catch once a while but other than that I don't really get a chance to. Do you have a favorite variety? You have five or six varieties here. What do you like to eat? The rainbows are good. Brookies are good as well; the brook trout. Um, I do like the rainbow though. I've had Koreans come to the reserve pond. They actually just chopped it up right there and started eating it, and they offered a couple of pieces. And I was I was pretty surprised. It's actually not bad; just almost like salmon really. What do you love about this job? I get to be outside every day. It's quiet for the most part. I get to play with trout, basically. I can't complain about that. It's It's neat seeing the fish every day. You know, watching them grow. And just then Chris's dad Frank Shaver pulled in returning from a trout delivery. Working on this family farm, is it is it nice to be in the same spot? Oh, yeah. No, wake up in the morning. Look at what do you want? How much better can you get that? And you can go anywhere you want. You know, it's not like you're cooped up. Yeah, no, it's just nice to wake up and you're outside every day, which is nice. You know, so. And it is a little cold sometimes. But hey, you got to deal with the bad for the good, right? What's your favorite season here? Oh, May, June, something like that. 'Cause in like in June, we start slowing down a little, and then you can do more projects, get more stuff done, and it's warm. You know, in the winter, you're climbing in there and there's ice on the pond. Ooo, that's not fun. Is it fun seeing where the fish wind up either in a creek or a local restaurant? Oh yeah now, I go some cool places. Unbelievable. Most of them are clubs, you know fishing clubs. So you get to know the people, you know, and they're all really nice people, all of them. I've never had a really a bad delivery. And then you get to see like a lot of them. You'll go back the next year and see the pictures of what they've caught. And what they like is they look natural. If you raise them in the concrete or, or inside a closed building, they lose their color. You know what I mean? They don't get the sunlight. So here they get all the sunlight plus what's in the water, the bugs, all that they're eaten. So it's pretty cool. Yeah. When we're busy, we put a APB out to all family, "We need help." It's only like two months that we're extremely busy. We're busy for the rest of the summer with the restaurants but it's just that intense. Everybody's got to have fish before the first April. It seems like the big rush is on. It'll be crazy for a while but we'll get through it. There's so many good memories here on the farm, you know. Was 13 years ago that my father passed away of a massive heart attack and it's like he's here everywhere; you know? He's always watching. They're always watching over us I feel. Are you optimistic that it'll continue to pass down? I'm hopeful. I work so close with my father from a young age. It's just comes natural to me. The kids came in at a little later age to work and pay attention. It's gonna take some time. I think once we get my niece Ashlyn here, it takes a good woman to run every operation, and she'll take the reins and then she can be in charge of her brothers and her cousins, but I'm hopeful that it's all gonna. We've put into so much. We put out four or five generations of family into this. It just would be horrible something ever happened. Thanks to the Shavers for showing us around the Beaverkill Trout Hatchery. Audio Recording by our production intern Jared Lyman. Kaatscast is a production of Silver Hollow Audio. Please be sure to subscribe for free and automatic delivery every two weeks and give us a rating while you're at it so other listeners can find us. If you'd like to contribute, just click Support at kaatscast.com. Until next time, I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening, and we'll catch you again in two weeks. 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai / JL