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Fish Factories

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 22, 2010

hatcheries, the five work as an integrated unit, but each has its specialties.

Lost Valley Hatchery near Warsaw, for example, produces the bulk of the state’s walleye and white bass/striped bass hybrids, as well as catfish for the urban fishing programs. Chesapeake Hatchery near Mount Vernon is a catfish factory, while Blind Pony Hatchery near Sweet Springs raises paddlefish and endangered pallid sturgeon. Hunnewell Hatchery in Shelby County is best known for growing large hybrid sunfish for kids’ fishing clinics across the state. Indian Trail Hatchery near Salem is the source of many of the bass, bluegill and catfish that go to the state’s farm pond stocking program.

The hatcheries produce astonishing numbers of fish. Ken Neubrand, the manager of Lost Valley Hatchery, said that each year the facility raises more than 110,000 1-pound catfish, up to 900,000 young walleye and from 300,000 to 600,000 hybrid striped bass.

One way to tell a warm-water hatchery from a coldwater hatchery is that the former is likely to keep fish in ponds. The other difference is that warm-water hatcheries deal with many different species of fish.

Neubrand said that for each species of fish, the production process is generally the same. “We’re collecting brood stock, we’re getting eggs out of brood stock and creating young fish that we put into our ponds and grow to acceptable size before taking them out to lakes to stock.”

Lost Valley hatchery is one of the largest and most modern fish factories in the nation. The complex includes 78 rearing ponds interconnected by a mind-boggling array of pipes, pumps and electrical wires.

“It’s pretty high-tech,” Neubrand said. “We have a computer monitoring system that monitors the wells, which are our main water source. It monitors the towers and the water flow through about 15 miles of pipe.”

Hatchery fish at work

Fish from warm-water hatcheries often seed self-sustaining fisheries. The highly popular Private Pond and Lake Fish Stocking Program is a good example. Conservation Department hatcheries raise largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish and provide them to landowners without charge to establish fisheries in new or renovated private ponds and lakes.

The hatcheries also provide fish for new or renovated public lakes. In fact, the Conservation Department fisheries division constantly looks for opportunities to establish, enhance or restore popular fish species in all the state’s 890 public lakes.

Visiting Hatcheries

Shepherd of the Hills and Lost Valley hatcheries attract thousands of visitors each year. You and your family can learn all about raising fish and see huge fish up close. Guided tours are available.

Both hatcheries are open to visitors year-round, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Lost Valley is closed on Sundays and Mondays from Labor Day until April 30.

Lost Valley Hatchery is northeast of Warsaw at the Truman Dam access road. Call (660) 438-4465 for more information.

Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery is located on Highway 165, below the dam at Table Rock Lake. Call (417) 334-4865 for ore information.

Sometimes this means introducing species, such as redear sunfish. Sometimes it means rebalancing a lake’s fish population by introducing predator species, such as muskie and hybrid striped bass.

The hatcheries are also experimenting with raising endangered species. Lost Valley and Chesapeake hatcheries, for example, have propagated several species of endangered mussels, and Lost Valley successfully raised endangered Topeka shiners. Blind Pony is the first state hatchery in the country to have successfully spawned pallid sturgeon.

No matter what species of fish are involved, hatchery work is as relentless as a factory production line. Every day, hatchery workers have to feed, treat, grade, stock, tag, transport, monitor and inventory fish. Planning for fish production and distribution has to take place months or even years in advance.

It’s probably the furthest thing from your mind when you’re out on the water fishing, but that tug you feel at the end of your line is the result of lots of hard work, dedication and good management.

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