Arthur N. Stenning of the Ballanahinch Fishery, Ireland, was appointed in 1896 to succeed Ernest Latour* as curator of the Pirie Trout Hatchery, managed by the Frontier Acclimatization Society of King William's Town. The hatchery was situated at the source of the Buffalo River, in the Evelyn Valley Forest Reserve, high up in the Pirie Mountains some 30 km from King William's Town. Its purpose was to breed trout and other angling species with which to stock the rivers of the Eastern Cape. Stenning arrived via East London in October 1896. Two prominent members of the committee that supervised his work were J.D. Ellis* and Dr H.M. Chute*.
After inspecting the hatchery Stenning recommended that five narrow ponds, some nine meters in length, be constructed for rearing young fry. The recommendation was accepted by the committee, but the ponds took long to construct and when finished were not fully utilised. Stenning's first shipment of 30 000 brown trout (Salmo trutta) ova arrived from Britain in February, but proved to be in very poor condition. A second shipment of 60 000 ova fared better, and by April 1897 he could release 20 000 fry in nearby small streams. Meanwhile high water temperatures and over feeding caused the death of most of the adult trout remaining at the hatchery, indicating that Stebbing found it difficult to adapt his knowledge to local conditions. He was furthermore surprised to find that the remaining two year old trout had already reached breeding age and in July 1897 managed to obtain the hatchery's first "local" fertile ova from them. The few hatchlings proved that the problem of the acclimatisation of trout in the Eastern Cape had essentially been solved. His second stripping of trout in 1898 produced some 7000 vigorous fry, which were released in the Buffalo River, Van Staden's River near Port Elizabeth, and in East Griqualand.
Like his predecessor Latour, Stenning had no faith in the suitability of the Pirie hatchery and strongly recommended that rearing ponds be constructed near the Keiskamma River. This recommendation was not acted upon. In February 1899 a further 80 000 trout ova and 10 000 Atlantic salmon ova arrived from Scotland. Nearly all the salmon hatched and in April that year they were released in the nearby Rabula stream, a tributary of the Keiskamma River. This was the only known attempt to introduce Atlantic salmon in a Cape river flowing to the Indian Ocean. It seems that they did not survive.
Stenning was called before the committee in March 1899 to answer criticisms regarding the unkempt and neglected state of the hatchery. However, his response and an inspection visit convinced the committee that it was necessary to spend money on improvements. His living conditions were also very primitive, the accommodation for him and his wife consisting essentially of two dilapidated huts. Despite his complaints there was no money to build a more suitable dwelling.
In 1899 the Frontier Acclimatization Society made its first attempt to import rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) ova. A consignment of 10 000 ova arrived from Scotland in April that year, but practically all were dead on arrival. However, the dozen or so remaining fish flourished. Subsequently the hatchery at Jonkershoek was able to provide rainbow trout ova, so no further attempts to import them were required. In June that year Stenning stripped some 23 000 brown trout ova. Towards the end of the year his brother, F.C. Stenning of Innishannon, County Cork, Ireland, promised to send a consignment of "sea trout" ova as a present to the society. Most of the ova did not hatch and by March 1900 only 170 fish remained. At this time Stenning battled with an inadequate water supply and high water temperatures because of a drought, with the result that no ova could be harvested. Under these unfavourable conditions he observed that, contrary to the general opinion that when trout are not allowed to spawn they drop their ova, the ova were in fact absorbed by the body. The next season was more favourable and in July 1901 he took 75 000 trout ova. Later that year he released 35 000 trout in the Buffalo River and 20 000 in the Kubusie River (a tributary of the Great Kei).
At the end of June 1902 Stenning gave three months notice of his resignation, being fed up with his poor accommodation and having proved to his own satisfaction that trout culture was going to be a success in the Eastern Cape. He left early in 1903 to take up a position as curator of the hatchery of the Transvaal Trout Acclimatization Association in Potchefstroom. His wife, Laura E. Combs, and their son Sydney remained at the Pirie until May 1903. Stenning and his wife were divorced in 1911.