The first fish hatchery on the Seneca Nation's Allegany Territory is set to open by the end of August.
Shane Titus, who works for the SNI Conservation Department hopes the memories that come about from families fishing on the territory will last a lifetime, however.
"It's the one rare opportunity you can have a 90-year-old grandpa and a 3-year-old next to each other," he said about fishing experiences he hopes will result from nation attempts to stock area waterways. He said for the generations to enjoy a day of fishing is all about family values and pride.
"It's a moment people won't forget," he said, adding he hopes those with the good memories will then pass them onto their families also.
Titus is proof.
"I live and die fishing," he said. During the time he has fished, however, he has realized habitats needed for fish on the Kinzua Reservoir are not what they used to be. He said the fishing quality of the 1970s has depleted due to shoreline erosion.
"We can't just put walleye and hope it works. ... The total goal is to make the region a destination for anglers."
"The habitat needed by fish is not present," said Titus. He said, therefore, there is a desire to populate waters with more predominant species instead of bass or carp populations he said have become more prevalent in shallower water. Since sediment is building up in the water, he said, bottom feeders are also becoming abundant. Populations of perch and walleye have declined about 70 percent during the years, he said.
Titus said Senecas' have relied on fish to "fill refrigerators" for hundreds of years. With the fish population decreasing, however, he said, they could no longer sustain the Seneca population. Since non-Seneca anglers also enjoy fishing, attempts were begun to solve the problem.
Titus said a US Fish and Wildlife Tribal Wildlife grant was secured by the nation: one of about 30 for more than 130 tribes across the country.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife website, the commission establishes fisheries due to a decline in fishing resources, a lack of information about fishing, to protect fish and supplement declining native stock. They have helped establish 70 hatcheries across the country. Seneca funds were also used, as the nation donated 29 acres of land for the hatchery, provided heavy equipment for earth moving, provides salaries for staff, paid for top soil, road milling and the . The combined efforts have led to the construction of a 30 by 40 foot pole off exit 19 of I-86. Drivers can take the exit to Hatchery Road and go on to Genjoh (which means fish in Seneca) Run.
The facility, where walleye will be hatched will be green, solar panelled and will use no electricity resulting in no bills. Work is being done so walleye can spawn in spring, 2012. Titus said the hatchery is only one effort to help the fish population.
"Everything is related," said Titus, who said more than 200 used or unsold Christmas trees were donated by area greenhouses or from Salamanca to help with habitats so the fish will want to live in the water.
"We can't just put walleye and hope it works," he said, adding he and others visited other hatcheries to learn how to run the new facility, where they will gather walleye, remove eggs and put the eggs in hatching jars made to accommodate 200,000 eggs. There are four jars that roll and oxygenate so the eggs get air. Water then forces them out and onto a runway. Two nation staff members will then remove 120,000 eggs and put 60,000 into two 30 by 60 foot ponds on the hatchery property. The rest of the eggs will be released into the reservoir.
"The total goal is to make the region a destination for anglers," said Titus, who hopes some grandparents and their offspring can also imply enjoy a day of fishing together.