Missouri's Brown Trout Fishery
strain's spawning season occurs during October and November. Hatchery staff collect adult fish from the lake until they obtain 200 ripe females and 100 males. Eggs are removed from females with an air spawning method, which involves pumping oxygen into the body cavity of each fish to push eggs out. Eggs are then fertilized, and all fish are returned to the lake.
The egg incubation period lasts 45 days. After hatching, the fish eat a commercially produced dry food. To reduce stress on the skittish Sheep Creek strain fish, they are covered and fed automatically.
"Another challenge in raising the wilder Sheep Creek strain is disease," Civiello said.
Bacterial Kidney Disease (BKD) is a chronic to acute systemic infection of salmonid fishes. This disease rarely causes problems in fish smaller than six inches in length. However, under certain conditions it can cause high mortalities. The disease can be identified by a welt or blister on the side of the fish.
Civiello considers this disease unusual because it can be transmitted from mother to youth through the egg. Of all freshwater trout, brook trout are affected most severely, followed by browns. Rainbows are least affected. BKD can kill a lot of trout in a very short time if not quickly discovered and treated.
Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery staff constantly monitor their fish for BKD. Even so, the hatchery once lost several thousand fish before an outbreak of the disease could be brought under control with antibiotics. Stress, overcrowding and water quality are contributing factors of BKD outbreaks.
Trout fishing in Missouri adds up in dollars and cents. For example, the Taneycomo fishery has an estimated combined annual economic benefit of about $13.5 million. The hatchery not only raises more than 50,000 brown trout annually, it also raises and releases 750,000 rainbow trout annually into Lake Taneycomo and other trout streams and rivers. The hatchery supplies an additional 60,000 to 100,000 9- to 10-inch rainbow trout to Roaring River hatchery annually. About 3 million trout eggs and 125,000, 3-inch, fingerling trout are transferred to other state hatcheries in Missouri.
The hatchery itself is also a popular tourist attraction. An estimated 250,000 people visit the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery annually.
"Guests are amazed at how many fish we have on station at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery," Civiello said.
A 1988 survey of hatchery visitors indicated that most were non-Missouri families vacationing in the Branson area. Visitors can view exhibits and videos, see fish in aquariums and watch the hatchery fish being fed.
Time, hard work and conservation dollars have developed a world class brown trout fishery in Missouri. Thanks to the production of the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, every cast in our state's trout waters brings the possibility of a thrilling battle with a bruiser-size brown trout. Who knows? It might even be a new Missouri state-record.