By Grant Gale
A Cranbrook area truck driver is a familiar face at Clearwater Trout Hatchery and in the North Thompson Valley.
Larry Fox has put in more than 35 years hauling trout for the provincial fish culture and lake-stocking program. He has been hauling specially equipped trailers since the mid-1970s for the B.C. government’s Fish and Wildlife program and its successor, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.
A fish culturist always accompanied Fox, but the truck driver gained a lot of experience transporting fish. There were times when his resourcefulness and experience helped with some potentially serious situations. Fox was always more than just “the driver”.
One of his more memorable trips occurred recently when the truck broke down on Roger’s Pass. He worked with the fish culturist from KTH, who monitored the fish while a replacement truck was provided. The run took an extra six hours, but the fish arrived in excellent condition.
As angler demands on lakes increased in the Cariboo and northern part of the province, the lack of a major trout production facility in the area required fish to be produced and transferred from Kootenay Trout Hatchery (KTH) near Cranbrook. Prior to the purchase of the Clearwater facility in 1997, the fish were transferred into the much smaller Loon Creek Hatchery (LCH) south of Clinton. These fish are reloaded into smaller trucks for delivery to the various lakes.
LCH used to receive 15 or more semi-trailer loads of fish. The first trailer used for these transfers was a refitted milk tanker. In the mid-1980s, a specially designed trailer replaced the original tanker. The new unit had updated oxygen delivery equipment and more compartments. This trailer can hold up to 175,000 fish depending on the size and species of fish.
The contract is always more than showing up with the truck to hook on and drive. Fox goes to the hatchery to move the trailer from its storage location to the pond building, and then has to be on hand while the fish are being loaded to move it between containers. One truck had to be fitted with modified exhaust stacks when the doors in the new pond building at KTH were found to be too low.
But as Larry approaches retirement, he reflects back on his involvement with the program. This has always been his favorite contract, and he smiles every time he gets to talk about it.
Recent water and energy conservation measures adopted by the FFSBC means more fish are produced at Clearwater Hatchery, requiring fewer transfers. The transfer program will continue for some years yet, but Larry will be putting in fewer hours behind the wheel.
“That’s OK” he says, “lots of other things to do”.
But you can bet that when the hatchery calls, he will pretty much drop whatever he’s doing.