As a kid, Fran Verdoliva ’74 had a paper route in the city of Oswego that took him past a shop that sold fishing tackle.
“Fly fishing really intrigued me,” said Fran, who used some of his delivery pay toward rods and lures.
It was the gear that first drew him into the sport. But for Fran, it was the time spent on the creeks, river and ponds surrounding his westside home that set the foundation for a lifetime commitment to the environment, fishing, history, commerce and the waterways surrounding Lake Ontario—and the pursuit of the elusive fish of his childhood.
A History of Healthy Fish
Fran’s childhood—often navigated on a bicycle with a Gladding South Bend fishing rod held tight to the handlebars—was in a city that carried some of the environmental problems of the times. The lake and the river suffered from industrial contaminants, sewer lines made direct entry to the waters and local mills were causing pollution.
The result: “By the 1950s, there were no salmon or trout in the river and lake around Oswego,” Fran said. An avid history buff who had read local accounts of fish as far back as the 1700s, Fran was particularly drawn to a story of fish found on his grandparents’ land—the present-day Rice Creek Field Station/Fallbrook of SUNY Oswego.
Rice Creek was named for Asa Rice, a 1700s settler. By Rice’s written accounts, there were Atlantic salmon at the juncture of Rice Creek with Lake Ontario.
“These areas had healthy brook trout and salmon,” Fran said. “That history, of bountiful salmon and trout and beautiful water, that always raised my interest.”
Little did Fran know then, he’d go on to play key roles in bountiful and beautiful waters and healthy fish, including several projects within the Lake Ontario watershed, for the decades to come.
Not only was Fran an angler, he was a nationally ranked competitive runner—and subsequent inductee into the Oswego State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003—who decided to go to college in his hometown. At SUNY Oswego, his passion for fishing and environmentalism only grew: a mentor, met through a college fly-tying course, was Dr. Robert Rock, dean of students.
Fran’s introduction to water activism was Dr. Rock standing on a bridge in Altmar (eastern Oswego County) holding a protest sign about a power company’s environmental impact.
Visitors Are Welcome At Oswego County’s Salmon River Fish Hatchery
Each year, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation releases over one million pounds of fish into more than 1,200 public streams, rivers, lakes and ponds across the state. These fish are stocked for two main purposes: to restore native species to waters they formerly occupied and to enhance recreational fishing.
Built in 1980, the Salmon River Fish Hatchery specializes in raising chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, and brown trout. The Hatchery was constructed to revive and enhance the Great Lakes fishery and now provides most of the fish for the multi-million-dollar Lake Ontario salmonid fishery. Each year this hatchery stocks over 1.4 million Chinook salmon fingerlings (young fish 3-5 inches long), 155,000 coho fall fingerlings (3-5 inches), 90,000 coho salmon yearlings (a fish between one and two years old), and 750,000 steelhead yearlings.
Located in Altmar, N.Y., the Salmon River Fish Hatchery supplies fish for more than 100 public waters including Lake Ontario. Each year, the hatchery stocks approximately 3.5 million trout and salmon, and helps with local warm water fish stockings. Most fish are stocked directly into the designated water from the truck. Occasionally boats or aircraft are used to stock fish at a specific offshore location.
The Salmon River Fish Hatchery is located on County Route 22, one mile northeast of the Village of Altmar in Oswego County. The hatchery is open to the public! Visitors may come from April 1 (weather permitting – call the hatchery for the spring opening date) to November 30, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.
*Information from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website.
For more information and videos about the Salmon River Fish Hatchery, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/21663.html
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