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Postcard from the Past - They Grow White Trout at Saratoga

Written by Dick Perue

This summer the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery is celebrating a century of existence. In observance of 100 years of trout production and stocking I’m passing along several articles from the Bob Martin/Dick Perue collection.

The following story appeared in the Sept. 30, 1953 issue of “The Denver Post” and was written by Wyoming native and Post staff writer Red Kelso.

The headline and story reads:

Rare albino Brook trout bred at U.S. Fish Hatchery in Wyoming

Saratoga, – The federal fish hatchery here is perpetuating one of nature’s strangest curiosities – albino brook trout. But it’s just a hobby.

Lloyd Pullum, superintendent of the Saratoga hatchery, breeds these golden-white fish primarily for show purposes. They couldn’t survive under natural conditions.

“In nature,” said Pullum, “an albino would appear about once in one million chances.”

Pullum, who took over albino trout culture as a hobby, practices normal breeding methods and plants from 2,000 to 4,000 fingerlings a year in addition to shipping thousands of albino eggs to other hatcheries throughout the United States.

Distinct breed

“Breeding albino trout is comparable in the livestock industry to breeding a palomino stud to an albino mare,” Pullum said. “Eventually, a distinct breed would be established. That’s what we have done here.”

Pullum, with 32 years experience in wildlife work, found himself in this unique breeding project quite by accident. In 1940, he found nine albino eggs in a shipment of regular trout eggs from Spearfish, S.D., at that time the only hatchery raising albinos. Now, the Saratoga hatchery supplies albinos to the South Dakota fish plant.

Every three years, the breeding stock is culled. New stock spawns every two years, which ensures healthy offspring free from disease that rapidly becoming hardier than other species of trout.

“However, we can’t plant them as game fish or the breed would soon be extinct,” said Pullum. “Their light color makes them a good target for predatory birds.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department planted a number of these fish in the Snowy Range region and fishermen have reported catches each season.

The albinos are planted much larger than their normal cousins. Usually between four to seven inches long.

“This practice is to give the albinos every chance of survival,” said Pullum.