Paradise fish hatchery oldest in state

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

On March 9, 1970, by an act of Legislature, the brook trout was named the official state fish of Pennsylvania. An excerpt of the document reads:

"The Brook Trout is the only trout a native of Pennsylvania waters. A choice of most epicures, it is the most beautiful and widely distributed member of the salmon family in the State and is found in the small, cold mountain streams and lakes and in the spring-fed limestone streams of the valleys. The Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is hereby selected, designated and adopted as the official State fish of Pennsylvania. 1970, March 9, P.L. 161, No. 61, § 1."

In 1902, a Monroe County business created an industry to sell this native fish species to the public. The Paradise Brook Trout Co. was the first licensed trout hatchery in Pennsylvania. Founded by a group of businessmen from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the hatchery is still operating today on Route 191 in Paradise Township.

The founders chose the 110-acre Monroe County location because of its ideal environment for raising and farming fish — open fields and natural springs. The group worked to make a series of ponds and raceways fed by several springs with gravity providing the force for water to flow through the system and, ultimately, into Paradise Stream. The first brood stock of brook trout for the hatchery came from this stream, a branch of Brodhead Creek that flows through the property. The fish continue to be raised in as natural a setting as possible.

In 1922, the investors in the hatchery hired George Stack Sr. as foreman to oversee the business. Over the years, Stack slowly purchased stock in the company, and by 1967, George Stack Jr. bought the company. Today, Stack's daughter, Beth Martin, manages the hatchery. The hatchery raised brook trout exclusively until the 1940s, when rainbow and brown trout were added to their own system of ponds. Eggs from the hatchery were shipped to nearly every state in the United States and to foreign markets in Europe, Africa and Asia.

While one may not think of a hatchery as a farm, it is. The ideal age for a female trout to produce eggs is three years. A mature, 3-pound female will lay about 3,000 eggs which take 30 to 45 days to hatch, depending on water temperature. The youngest fish are kept in ponds high on the property, where the spring-fed water ranges in temperature from 47 to 50 degrees F. Within a year or so, the fish grow to 10 to 12 inches in length. During this time, and for the next five or so years of life, the fish are separated by size into a succession of downstream ponds. This system allows clients of the hatchery to purchase specific numbers of fish based on both species and size.

During early operations, fish from the hatchery traveled by horse and buggy in milk cans to the train station where the product would be shipped to market. Originally, the largest part of the business was supplying trout to New York City restaurants and vendors, including the Fulton Fish Market. Today, the main business is selling trout to local fishing clubs for stocking waterways.

An early advertisement brochure from Paradise Brook Trout Co. states, "A good Trout Stream without any Trout Is like a play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out." This historic Monroe County business celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2002. The Paradise Brook Trout Co. was run by the Stack family for more than 75 years until it was sold in 2009. While some modernization has occurred over the years, a majority of the work at the hatchery is still done the "old-fashioned" way.

Paradise Brook Trout Co. is open to the public. For information on the hatchery, call 570-629-0422.