RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - There are about 40,000 farms in Georgia, but less than 10 are fish hatcheries.
One of them is close by, in Bryan County.
“My favorite thing in the world is to see a kid catch his first fish or help them do that,” said fishery supervisor, Tim Barrett.
It’s a simple goal that the Richmond Hill Hatchery helps to achieve each year by producing up to 1.5 million one-inch fingerlings.
“All of the fry in the state, striped bass fry, hybrid striped bass fry, white bass fry, they’re all made here in Richmond Hill,” Barrett said. “There’s over a million in here that came from one female striped bass that was about 20 pounds."
The fish start off their lives by spawning in the brand-new hatchery off Ford Avenue.
“We incubate the eggs for about 48 hours, then they hatch into their aquariums. From that point, they will stay with us for about five or six days in the aquariums. Then, we will stock them into these ponds,” Barrett said.
Thirty-one production ponds spread out across 87 acres that you may have been driving every day without even realizing it.
Once grown, the fish are transported to private ponds, lakes, and rivers across the state - including adding striped bass to our local waterways.
“We’ll harvest them when they are six to eight inches, and those will go to the Savannah River; about 40,000 a year to support the Savannah River population."
They are fish that anglers can soon enjoy catching, which in turn, helps the Georgia Department of Natural Resources maintain a healthy population.
“Our funding comes from fishing licenses, as well as sport fish restoration funds. All the boats, fish and tackle; every time you buy boat fuel, a little bit of that comes directly to us. We are by and large funded by anglers, giving straight back to anglers in producing the fish they are looking for.”
It’s an important relationship that brings in a lot of money.
“It drives about a $160 million economic impact in the state for the striped bass fishery," Barrett said.
More important than the money is the memories it generates.
“Producing a product that I can see and touch, knowing that some of these are going to end up on the end of a hook is a great feeling,” Barrett said.
The next kid’s fish event at the Richmond Hill Hatchery will be held June 1.