MASSENA — There's more than one way to hatch a fish.
The St. Lawrence River Walleye Association has been trying to build a hatchery along the river for a few years, but has been thwarted by a lack of money to buy land and build. So its members are getting inventive, with the help from some fishermen in Vermont.
"We decided to do a model of the Vermont portable hatchery," said John L. Matthews, second vice president of the association. "It's working really good for them and we decided to do the same."
The hatchery is in an enclosed trailer. Currently under construction, it's about 90 percent complete, Mr. Matthews estimated, and will be ready for eggs in the spring. The association is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to get eggs to put in the six hatching jars.
Each half-gallon jar, which measures 18 inches tall, can hatch 200,000 to 600,000 eggs.
Invasive species like zebra mussels have damaged the health of the river and affected the walleye population. There are not as many of the native fish in the river as there used to be; the hatchery is intended to help the population grow.
"The river's really sick and we'd just like to help it out," Mr. Matthews said. "That's how this all got started."
In 2003, the association started floating the idea of building a hatchery on the river. The plan was for a building and research center, as well as three ponds for the fingerlings — as the fish are called when they are about 1 inch long — and a parking lot, Mr. Matthews said.
That plan would have cost about $1.3 million, money the Walleye Association doesn't have.
"We were looking at 5 acres, but we couldn't get anyone to give us land and there weren't any grants," Mr. Matthews said. "This route, we can still provide a service for the fish."
Construction of the trailer is costing the group only about $10,000. In addition to the trailer, which will hold the eggs and newly hatched fish, called fry, the association will have a pond on the private property of one of its members in Waddington. The trailer is in Massena, but its permanent home has not yet been decided.
The group has about 100 members and sponsors four tournaments a year. At its ice fishing tournament in February, approximately 800 people entered.
"We provide something to do up here," Mr. Matthews said. "We decided we'd like to put back to the river because we take a lot of fish out."