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A Fine Kettle Of Fish

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

Two ghostlike figures drift silently through the heavy mist rising up from a pool of restless, smoky water. They fade in and out of view, backs hunched forward, working a long-handled net to and fro as if stirring a giant cauldron.

A barred owl shrieks in the distance, answered by the excited wails of a pileated woodpecker. In the background you can hear the constant murmur of rushing water.

This may resemble a scene from an Edgar Allen Poe short story, but all that's described is just another cool morning in the hills of west-central Missouri near Warsaw. The ghostly figures? Well, they are Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries personnel working at the new Lost Valley Fish Hatchery.

When the fog lifts later in the morning, the bright sun will reveal one of the newest, largest and most innovative fish-rearing facilities in the nation.

Completed in February 2000, the Lost Valley Fish Hatchery was designed to replace the Conservation Department's aging Indian Trail and Lewis and Clark hatcheries, which were no longer able to supply the growing demands of Missouri's expansive and diverse fisheries. The Lewis and Clark hatchery is now closed, and production has been scaled back dramatically at Indian Trails.

Lost Valley's impact was immediate. In less than a year, the hatchery produced nearly one million fish for stocking into public waters. Those included 374,000 walleyes, 369,000 white bass/striped bass hybrids, 183,000 striped bass, 65,000 channel catfish and 7,000 muskellunge.

Depending on the needs of the state's fisheries managers, the hatchery will be able to produce anywhere from four to 10 million fish per year for Missouri's million resident anglers and more than 50,000 non-resident anglers. The hatchery also will play a prominent role in maintaining the health of our state's various aquatic habitats.

A product of intense, progressive planning, Lost Valley Hatchery is the largest state-owned, warm-water fish hatchery in Missouri and one of the 10 largest in the nation, said Steve Eder, fisheries field operations chief for the Conservation Department. The advanced technology of its equipment allows the hatchery to produce large numbers of fish in a cost-effective manner, providing maximum benefit at minimum expense to Missouri taxpayers.

In fact, the entire facility has been a whale of a bargain for Missourians from the beginning. The total cost of the facility was $18.4 million, of which the Conservation Department contributed 26 percent ($4.8 million). The federal government covered the remaining 74 percent with funds from

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