A Fine Kettle Of Fish

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

Missouri's fisheries is a complex and complicated task. It involves more than simply stocking fish for anglers to catch. It involves maintaining the health and viability not only of specific fisheries, but also their habitats and ecosystems. This mission requires fish production, of course, but it also requires educating the public about the hatchery and the role it plays in managing Missouri's fish resources.

The Lost Valley Fish Hatchery is designed to fulfill all of these missions for many years.

A Day at the Hatchery

Anyone who owns an aquarium knows how much work it takes to keep it clean and keep the fish healthy.

Imagine then how much work it takes to operate a fish hatchery that produces millions of fish per year.

An average day at the Lost Valley Fish Hatchery begins at 8 a.m., when workers check the oxygen levels in the ponds. If there's not enough oxygen, they'll turn on aerators to pump air into the water, or they'll pump fresh water into the ponds.

Meanwhile, some workers are feeding the fish in the outside ponds, while others clean the tanks in the production room. Young fish consume a lot of groceries, so they must refill the feeders throughout the day.

The ponds also must be fertilized to encourage plankton growth, which provides food for young fish.

"Several times a week we monitor the growth of the fish we're rearing by taking samples," said David Waller. "We weigh the fish out of a unit and count the fish. That way, we know exactly how many fish it takes to make a pound and see if they're growing at the preferred rate."

As fish grow, they eventually get crowded and must be moved to separate rearing units, Waller added. When the fish reach stocking size, they are transferred to lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

Some fish species grow faster than others. Also, the preferred stocking size for some fish, like bass, is different than for muskies or catfish, so some fish remain at the hatchery longer than others. For example, walleyes reach stocking size-about 2 inches- in about 45 days, but muskies take six months to reach their stocking size of 12 inches. Channel catfish used in the urban fishing program stay in the hatchery for about two years to reach their stocking size of 1.25 pounds.

"Running a hatchery requires intensive management, and it's a logistical juggling act to balance the needs of our long-term residents and short-timers," Waller said. "Everywhere you look, there's always work do around here. There's never a dull moment."

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