During a tour of the hatchery last week, U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell discussed the possibility of introducing legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives that would hand the facility over to the state.
The NCWRC already operates the hatchery, which is a supplier of channel catfish from its 23 warm water ponds. They are used for the state’s Community Fishing Program.
The state program has more than 40 lakes and one stream across North Carolina that are intensively managed, receiving monthly stockings of catchable-sized channel catfish from April through September, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Web site.
In Richmond County, these include Hamlet City Lake and the lake at the Ellerbe Lion’s Club.
“The McKinney Hatchery is such a vital part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s work,” Kissell said. “It only makes sense that this incredible resource be transferred to the ownership of our State.
“The hard work done at this and other hatcheries ensures that North Carolinians will be able to experience the fun of fishing for years and years to come and that our state will continue to reap the economic benefits of a healthy recreational fishing industry.”
Hatchery Superintendent Rick Bradford said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which currently owns the property, “wants us to have it just as badly as we do.”
He explained the state agency has been operating the hatchery under a lease agreement with the federal service since 1996.
“(The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) has really scaled back their fish hatchery operations, I guess it started about 10 or 15 years ago, and this is one of several across the country who are going through this same process right now,” Bradford said.
He said it makes sense - the federal service will no longer have the responsibility that goes along with the property and the state can continue to supply catfish for public fishing as long as it sees fit.
If it doesn’t happen, the hatchery could face an uncertain future.
“If they decided they wanted to use the hatchery for other things, it would severely impact our community fishing program,” Bradford said.
“We’re grateful that Congressman Kissell has offered his support of this legislation,” NCWRC Executive Director Gordon Myers said. “Transferring ownership of the McKinney Lake Hatchery will enable the Commission to continue important programs that provide fishing opportunities in North Carolina’s urban areas.”
There are at least seven fish hatcheries operated by the state and/or federal government in North Carolina
The Cheraw Fish Hatchery, formerly known as the Cheraw National Fish Hatchery, in South Carolina underwent a similar transfer to state hands in 1983.
The McKinney Lake State Fish Hatchery is located in Hoffman at 220 McKinney Lake Road, and is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.
Free 30-minute tours can be set up for groups of 15 or more by calling (910) 895-5330 in advance and scheduling them.
One pond is reserved for an annual children’s fishing day in June.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.