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Celebrating 100+ years of Fish Culture at Warren State Fish Hatchery

Jason Smith: (603) 271-1744

December 7, 2016

By Jason Smith, NH Fish and Game Department Chief of Inland Fisheries


Photos:  Select image for larger view.


This year marked an important milestone for a New Hampshire Fish and Game icon – the Warren State Fish Hatchery.   In 1914, when the Fish and Game Com­mission was looking for suitable locations to construct a new trout hatchery, the Smith Estate in Warren was identified as a good match. In 1915, the State of New Hampshire purchased the Walt Smith Farm and proceeded to construct the Warren Fish Hatchery, which opened in 1916.  The facility is the oldest N.H. Fish and Game Department hatchery still in operation.


In 1921, twelve earthen ponds were constructed at the site to further enhance the hatchery’s capabilities. Over the years, chinook salmon, pike perch (walleye) and northern pike have been raised at the hatchery, in addition to the trout for which the facility was originally intended.


The hatchery continued to operate for around 60 years, until the Department took over operation of the Berlin Fish Hatchery from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1984. Warren was closed, along with hatch­eries at Colebrook, Richmond and Ossipee, because it was thought that the increased production at Berlin Hatchery would cover trout production needs for the state. The facility was put up for sale. For a brief time, the hatchery enter­tained some interest from private investors, but efforts to sell it were unsuccessful.


In 1993, Warren was re-opened as part of a cooperative effort between N.H. Fish and Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to restore Atlantic salmon to the Merrimack River watershed. Warren Hatchery was a suitable site to raise salmon because of its location on the Baker River, which flows into the Pemigewasset, then the Winnipesaukee River, the Merrimack and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantic salmon are anadromous, meaning they return to their birthplace to spawn, and go through a process called “imprinting” during the first two years of their life before heading out to sea. This is how they know where to return as adults.


During this effort, the Warren Hatchery would receive eggs fertilized at the National Fish Hatchery in Nashua. Typically 2-3 million “sac fry” per year came out of Warren Hatchery during this period. The eggs originated from either domestic brood­stock housed in Nashua or wild Atlantic salmon returning to fish ladders along the Merrimack River. In 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew financial support for the Merrimack River Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program, shifting their focus to habitat work, fish passage and other diadro­mous fish species, thus bringing an end to Atlantic salmon stocking in the Merrimack.


During the 1990s, Warren also served as a broodstock facility for brook and brown trout, as well as producing some trout for stocking into local rivers and lakes. The “Rome strain” of trout broodstock was propagated there because of its genetic resistance to “furunclu­losis,” a bacterial pathogen infa­mously known as “salmon-killer.” Warren Hatchery provided trout eggs or fingerlings to Milford, New Hampton and Powder Mill hatch­eries until the broodstock became infected with a viral pathogen that may have been introduced by avian or furbearing predators or other fish near the facility. The broodstock were removed from Warren and eggs were brought in from surrounding states until new Rome strain broodlines could be established at New Hampton Hatchery.


Today, the Warren Fish Hatchery is still in operation and is a rearing station for brook, brown and rainbow trout, providing catchable-sized trout for recreational angling opportunities in northern Grafton County.


Hatchery visitors can view and feed brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout (a hybrid between a male brook trout and female brown trout), along with a few landlocked Atlantic salmon, in the outdoor showpools. Find directions for visiting a fish hatchery at

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