ANACONDA – Montana’s fish hatcheries produce millions of fish per year for anglers and for one woman it’s more than just a job — after all, Angela Smith has loved fish ever since she was just a little kid.
“There’s something really beautiful about them and this job [it] lets me work with them and see them every day,” Smith said. “And then I have aquariums at home where people think I’m crazy because I go home and take care of those fish too. It’s just something that I’ve always had. You know I’ve been fishing since I was a kid, spending a lot of time outside, but fish have always been a major obsession.”
As Montana’s first female hatchery manager, Smith hopes to spread her passion of fish to others.
“My parents never made me feel like there was something that I couldn’t do, and we did so much stuff outside that I kind of had a lot of the outdoors skills — comfort, confidence in myself to do stuff like that. You just made like 10,000 babies,” Smith said.
After 14 years at the Washoe Hatchery in Anaconda, Smith knows how much the hatchery means to the community and how much the community means to her.
“Being here you are very public and very accessible for people, so you kind of get brought into the fold of different things that are going on,” Smith said. “And that’s one of the best parts of the job actually is work with civic groups and doing education and outreach and that kind of stuff.”
Faced with the daily challenges of running a hatchery, Smith knows her work makes a difference to Montana’s present and future anglers.
“I know every day — whether I’m doing the grunt work — it’s all going into creating a really good product for the people of Montana that we put out there for them to enjoy and our fish are used for sportfishing and conservation which is kind of a cool mix,” Smith said.
Smith has spawned more than 30,000 fish in her career.