The Salmon Ponds at Plenty, circa 1861, is the oldest trout hatchery in the Southern Hemisphere. Here was the birthplace of trout in Australia and the origin of Tasmania’s legendary trout fishery. Throughout the historic buildings, one can take a walk back in time to witness the introduction of trout to Tasmania. The Salmon Ponds are set within the original 19th century English style gardens, where beautiful English trees up to 150 years old still flourish.
No Salmon, but Plenty of Trout Made Tasmania Home
The early settlers in Tasmania found themselves in a very strange and unfamiliar environment, but soon realised Tasmania, with its cool climate and many lakes and rivers would be ideally suited to some of the animals and plants from their homeland. Due to the popularity of salmon fishing back ‘home’, and also in the hope of economic benefits, the Salmon Ponds hatchery was built to receive live salmon eggs (ova) which were to be transported from England. Initial attempts during the 1840s and 1850s failed.
The problems faced in transporting the live ova were massive: long sea voyages, some of which was across hot environments, a distance of almost 20,000 kilometres, and all this time the ova had to be kept cool and moist. Several attempts failed, and sadly on these voyages all ova was lost. But in 1864 success occurred with the transport of live eggs, carefully packed in perforated boxes between layers of moss, crushed ice and charcoal on board the Norfolk. However, these salmon were not successful in Tasmania. Being a migratory fish they were released in the Derwent, expected to go out to sea and return, but for reasons unknown the salmon did not return.
However, with these salmon from England came a small number of trout ova, which were hatched and raised alongside the salmon. These trout quickly established and formed sustainable numbers that rapidly spread throughout the lakes and rivers. The dreams of these settlers were turned into a reality, as it was this pure genetic stock which formed the foundation of today’s valuable Tasmanian recreational trout fishery. Hatcheries throughout Australia and New Zealand were later established using trout ova from the Salmon Ponds. Using eggs harvested from wild fish, Brown, Rainbow and Brook Trout are raised here and then used to complement Tasmania’s world renowned recreational fishery.
The Hatchery and Production
Built by the first ‘Salmon Commissioners’ in 1861, the Salmon Ponds at Plenty has always been a Government property and is operated by the Inland Fisheries Service. From its earliest beginnings, the property was designed with visitors in mind. Landscaped grounds were filled with exotic trees to create a Victorian era garden, a network of display ponds were established within the gardens at the hatchery and the Salmon Ponds were open to the public. The first ‘hatchery’ was a tent with wooden sides, but in 1870 the tent was replaced with a small wooden building, and over time this was enlarged to become the structure you see today. Trout raised here, using eggs harvested from wild fish, are used to complement Tasmania’s world renowned fishery. Here you will learn of the various stages of the life cycle of trout and of the growing period from May to November. You will also learn of the history of trout in Tasmania, and of the challenges overcome in transporting salmon and trout from England to Australia in the mid 1800s.
Museum of Trout Fishing…
The Museum of Trout Fishing is located in a cottage which was built for the first superintendent of the Salmon Ponds in 1865, and was successively occupied by members of the Ramsbottom, Stannard and Jones families who were known as ‘The Keepers of the Ponds’. The Stannard and Jones families continued an unbroken family succession spanning 109 years as Keepers of the Ponds. Here you will learn of and see the changes in trout fishing over the years. You will also discover many of the people, places and events that combined to make Tasmania’s rich trout angling history what it is today.
The Riverside Walk…
One must also take the ‘river walk’ …a magical stroll along the banks of the Plenty River, and yes, you will see plenty of big trout in the river and may also spot a platypus. Take the time to have a look at the ‘Sanctuary’, an old fishing shack built in about 1947 by a Mr William Burrows, a Commissioner for the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Commission as it was then known. He built the shack using the wood from packing crates used to bring a car chassis over from mainland Australia. This shack is a classic example of many of the shacks built near lakes and rivers throughout Tasmania over the past century. The Plenty River is reserved for angling by people with disabilities.
Welcome to Feed the Trout and Salmon…
Within the grounds at the Salmon Ponds are large ponds stocked with many fish up to 8 kilograms in weight, a trout fisherman’s dream! Poor Kev was heartbroken, seeing so many massive trout, and he couldn’t throw in a line (and mind you, his fishing rod travels with us everywhere!)
Fish species include Rainbow, Brown, Brook, Tiger and Albino Trout and Atlantic Salmon. Visitors are encouraged to feed the fish, (fish pellets are available from dispensers) and so truly worth it just to see these humungous trout jumping like crazy as they compete for the food.
Brown Trout was introduced to Tasmania from Europe in 1864 and is now plentiful in most lakes and rivers, all of which have self-sustaining populations. The largest recorded Brown Trout was a 13.27kg monster, ginormous by any standards, caught in the Huon River in 1887.
Brown Trout colouration varies depending on whether they are found in rivers, lakes or are sea-runners.
Rainbow Trout are considered by many anglers to be the best sporting fish in Tasmania, but have not adapted in the wild as well as the Brown Trout. Rainbow Trout were introduced from North America in 1898. The Tasmanian record Rainbow Trout is 7.8kg caught in the Ouse River in 1933. Colouration is usually a dark olive green back and silvery white ventral surface, with a pink to red flash along the side.
Brook Trout, a trout with dark olive green to brown back, sides and dorsal fin with light worm-like markings and a white stripe along the leading edge of fins. Introduced to Tasmania in 1883, the Brook Trout has not acclimatised well, although Clarence Lagoon and Lake Plimsoll do have wild populations with Brook Trout weighing up to 4kg.
Albino Rainbow Trout are golden coloured and rare in the wild, but the Salmon Ponds have some beautiful species. Here they can be easily seen, and are very popular with visitors.
Tiger Trout are produced from crossing female brown trout (eggs) with male brook trout (milt). They are bred mainly as a display fish and novelty species at the Salmon Ponds Hatchery. Tiger Trout have occasionally been released into a few waters, eg the Pet Dam, Lake Dulverton and Pawleena Lagoon. The Tiger Trout is a sterile hybrid so therefore does not breed. Colouration is a green mottled back with distinctive tiger like bands, and similar in shape and features to brown trout.
Atlantic Salmon in sea-cage farms are the backbone of Tasmania’s aquaculture industry, and some large mature fish can be seen and fed at the Salmon Ponds. Attempts to introduce them to Tasmania’s lakes and rivers were unsuccessful, but today some lakes are being stocked with Atlantic Salmon for recreational angling, and many are caught in southern waterways following their escape from fish farms such as Strahan.
Pancakes by the Ponds: a Licensed Restaurant
Well, having been almost 30 years since our last visit to the Salmon Ponds, imagine my surprise to find they now have a restaurant that specialises in pancakes! Okay, NOW imagine my dilemma having eaten a somewhat large lunch only 30 minutes prior to arriving at The Salmon Ponds. One cannot write a true and honest article without savouring the delights, and one of my favourite delights is pancakes, I can’t resist them. So now, Kev drags me away from the restaurant and it’s a two hour stroll around the Salmon Ponds to walk off one’s previous lunch, and then it’s straight back. BUT now a bigger dilemma… savoury or sweet? And watching the size of those pancakes coming out to be served to waiting guests told me there was no way I was going to fit in TWO WHOLE SERVES!!! The aromas were killing me. Kev was no help whatsoever, just teasing me as he reeled off the different varieties! To the rescue, a wonderful chef. No bother, he just cooked one savoury and one sweet, and then served them up as half serves for us both. Wow, nothing was too much trouble for these guys… 10/10 for awesome friendly service!
Pancakes by the Ponds specialises in savoury and sweet, traditional European style crepes. Fully licensed with Tasmanian wines and quality coffee. Yep, we had both savoury and sweet, with a most delicious cappuccino… 10/10… awesome, and yep, I admit I was ‘stuffed’!
All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography.
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Carol writes feature articles for this website about all things Tasmanian.
If you’d like Carol to visit you, please contact Think Tasmania.
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