The Friends of Cornish Hill have installed new interpretive signage for the old Daylesford Trout Hatchery near Grant St in Daylesford. Funding for the signage was provided by the Rotary Club of Daylesford.
Brown trout and Atlantic salmon were first introduced into Australia from England in 1864. Acclimatization Societies were set up in Ballarat in 1870 and near Geelong in 1874. By the turn of the century these were supplying most of the states’ needs to populate waterways with trout.
By the 1920s the Ballarat Society commenced specializing in the supply of eggs to local angling clubs, government agencies and individuals who established hatcheries in order to develop them into a major activity and source of revenue. The Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society still maintains a hatchery in the Botanical Gardens on Lake Wendouree.
Records show that the Daylesford Anglers Club was hatching trout as early as 1926-7. In 1930 they had a hatching box at Jubilee Lake where 40,000 eggs were successfully hatched. In 1931 the club president, John E Grant, offered his property for hatching. The hatchery consisted of a series of terraced ponds with water supplied free of charge by the Daylesford Water Trust.
In 1952-3, Daylesford Anglers Club volunteers built their own hatchery near Grant Street. The hatchery building was weatherboard and housed five hatching boxes made of soft wood sealed with tar. These boxes had the capacity for 60,000 eggs which were placed on glass grills laid inside the boxes. Records were not kept but “thousands” of fish were provided to stock Lake Daylesford and Lake Jubilee over a 20 year period.
Unfortunately for the hatchery, in 1971, Wallace McCain, of McCain’s Foods fame, visited Australia and purchased a small potato processing plant, formerly a woollen mill, in East Street. Untreated effluent from the mill flowed freely into Smiths Creek despite frequent complaints from locals. Caustic soda, used in the plant to remove potato skins, was thought to be responsible for destroying the hatchery.
The Daylesford McCain’s factory was too small to be profitable and McCain established a larger factory at Ballarat in 1975, still one of the major employers in the area. The Daylesford factory was closed resulting in considerable loss of employment for locals.
Locals may have found other employment but the damaged hatchery was never restored.