West Virginia native Tyler Hern began his new job as the manager of the Erwin National Fish Hatchery in November. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Erwin National Fish Hatchery has a new manager who brings a mix of youth and experience with him to the position.

Tyler Hern is no stranger to fish and the importance of aquatic wildlife, as he grew up in Ravenswood, West Virginia. Hern spent his youth in Ravenswood fishing the Ohio River, which runs along the border of his hometown.

“I grew up right on the Ohio River and we fished all the time,” Hern told The Erwin Record. Hern’s parents exposed him to fishing at a young age and he hasn’t looked back.

“I’ve been pretty fishy from the beginning,” Hern joked.

Upon graduating high school, Hern attended Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. It was at Davis and Elkins that Hern received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Hern then got his master’s degree in Biology from Marshall University located in Huntington, West Virginia.

“I actually moved to Tennessee after that and lived in Cookeville for three years, then I moved to Cincinnati and did some work with Environmental Solutions and Innovations as a scuba diver,” Hern said.

Hern has been all over Appalachia with school and work and couldn’t see living anywhere else. “I’ve had offers from places like Maine and out west, but I don’t think I could ever leave Appalachia,” Hern said.

Hern returned to West Virginia and began working for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in White Sulphur Springs. While working at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery, Hern learned about the Erwin National Fish Hatchery.

In June of 2016, White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery sustained more than $1.5 million in damages by a flood. The fish hatchery lost 15,000 adult rainbow trout broodstock and another 30,000 juvenile trout were exposed to floodwaters and potential viruses.

The fish hatchery was depopulated of all fish. There was an immediate need to repopulate more than 9.2 million trout eggs to restock the fish hatchery.

One of the major suppliers to help repopulate White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery was the Erwin National Fish Hatchery.

After spending more than four years at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery, Hern was named manager of the Erwin National Fish Hatchery in November.

The Erwin National Fish Hatchery supports recreational fishing across the United States.

“We ship between 14-16 million fish eggs a year,” Hern said. “This is the second largest producing facility among the 70 fish hatcheries in the United States.”

The fish hatchery is more than just raising fish eggs. Currently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into ways to bring endangered species to this area.

“That’s one of the reasons I think I was chosen to work here, is looking at different ways to expand our reach at this hatchery,” Hern stated.

Looking to the future, Hern and his staff are charged with keeping three years worth of stock of fish eggs to be prepared in case of a disaster.

“The staff here is extremely talented, which makes my job easy,” Hern told The Erwin Record. Hern said his focus will be on biosecurity. The fish hatchery raceways are currently located outside of the main building and that can cause problems.

“That is something that I’m going to work on,” Hern said.

Hern is settling into the community just fine.

“The move wasn’t bad at all, I pack light,” Hern joked.

According to Hern, Erwin reminds him of his hometown of Ravenswood.

“I’m excited to be a part of this community and everyone has been so kind and welcoming,” Hern said.