One of the many rare gems Ballarat has preserved from its early days - one that few cities or towns in Australia can lay claim to - is a public fish hatchery.
To give its full name, the 'Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society Inc. and Fish Hatchery' is now 150 years old.
The Ballarat Trout Hatchery located in Gillies Street was formed on August, 1 1870 at a public meeting held at Craig's Royal Hotel. Chaired by the mayor, Thomas Cowan, Ballarat's hatchery is the oldest on the mainland and second in age only to Tasmania's. .
Member and unofficial historian Keith Ridsdale says since then many, many thousands of trout have been raised at the hatchery and distributed to all parts of Australia and to countries throughout the world.
But the beginnings were not so successful. In what was celebrated at the time, but would be considered environmental vandalism now, a flood washed trout fingerlings into Victoria's rivers. They were discovered wild and thriving soon after at Deep Creek near Keilor.
The Learmonth family of Ercildoune Station brought trout to the region for the society, raising them in bathtubs on the property in August 1870. It wasn't entirely successful; by 1873 the hatchery was at Ballarat's Botanical Gardens' north end. In 1885 it moved to the current site and hatching ponds were constructed.
The hatchery was rebuilt between 1899 and 1900; a hatching house was added. Since then the society has provided hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of baby trout to lakes and waterways around Victoria, including regulatory stocking Lake Wendouree.
Of course 'baby trout' is not what any self-respecting trout aficionado would call them. They might be called, depending on where you are or who you are speaking to, as 'fry', 'fingerlings', 'parr', or 'alevin'. And they are not easy to raise.
Sensitive to heat fluctuations, changes in water make-up and other variables, even in recent years the hatchery has suffered from theft and break-ins, an inadvertent chemical release, drought and a disastrous power failure in 2004 following a fire at the tramways museum next door, which killed more than 100,000 fish.
At the time Keith Ridsdale was the first member to enter the hatchery.
"I checked the fish and there were thousands lying dead on the floor of the tanks while a few others were gasping for air at the surface."
The society is looking forward to its brown trout fry hatching, which usually happens around August. Investment in the society has seen deaths decline, including the installation of a water-cooling tower for use in hot weather.
Keith Ridsdale says the society is a self-funding, non-profit organisation, with about 30 volunteer members.
"More volunteers are always welcome," he says. Unfortunately pandemic restrictions mean formal 150th celebrations have been put on ice - much like the first trout roe brought to Australia all those years ago.