Beaverkill Trout Hatchery FarmHer, Sherry Shaver is one of a kind. The Hatchery is nestled in a valley of the Catskill Mountains of New York and is the largest and oldest private trout hatchery in the State.
Female Hatchery Owner
Sherry Shaver is a fourth-generation farmer and the first woman to run the Beaverkill Trout Hatchery business. She grew up in the area, riding bikes and helping out at the hatchery that her grandfather started. Back then, there was also cattle and a dairy at the farm, but over the years it has transitioned just to trout.
Following college, Sherry decided to return to the family farm in anticipation of building her own horse business and the trout just took over.
While many of the ways they operate are the same as they have always been, the business has really boomed over the past decade under Sherry’s watchful eye. They have even expanded to a second hatchery with more room in Pennsylvania to service their sprawling customer base.
Beaverkill Trout Hatchery
I wound my way through a gravel road in the very dense woods of the Catskills to arrive at Beaverkill Trout Hatchery where I was met by Sherry and her team of mostly family. They had already started the day before dawn, feeding, raking, sorting and catching fish.
I couldn’t wait to get the day started as this was the first time I’d ever been at an operation like this!
We started up in the main hatchery where thousands and thousands of tiny brown trout had recently hatched from eggs. Sherry explained that they get most of the eggs from their own mature fish and hatch them right there in that building.
Once they are big enough they are moved out of the hatchery building and into one of the many earthen or cement ponds on the property.
We left the hatchery and made our way down to one of the ponds where the crew was ready and waiting to catch some fish for an order. They all started in the cold water with waders on. Mike, who has worked for Sherry for 15 years and Tyler, another family member each held an end of a large net and worked their way from one end of the pond to the other, bringing the fish along with them.
Once the fish were all gathered at the end, the team went about hand-sorting the fish for the order, which required 100, 15-inch brown trout. To find the right size fish, they worked quickly, putting the fish into floating boxes, holding them up to a ruler and tossing the right-sized ones into a large net.
One crew member sat on the shore, taking count as everyone else yelled out the fist they put into the net. Once they had all of the fish they need, they transferred them to a water-filled box on the trailer, started up the aerator, and put the fish in. From there, they went to another holding pond where they would get loaded onto a truck and sent out to a customer.
Many of their customers are fishing clubs needing live trout all across New England. Additionally, they supply a growing number of restaurants with fresh trout.
Sherry and I ended my visit at another part of the operation, a stocked fishing pond that fills with hundreds of visitors on summer weekends.
Seeing how the trout are born, raised and then transported was so interesting. I loved getting to take a look inside this family operation, steeped in tradition and set in one of the prettiest areas I can imagine. Sherry is a tough woman and tough FarmHer. The trout business requires a lot of hard, heavy and wet work and long hours, but Sherry has not only handled, she has excelled and grown the family business as she thinks about the generations to come.