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Published on: Oct. 18, 2010

11-2010 Conservationist 45

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I have cared for trout eggs over the past 20 years.

Well, the plan worked. After about 20 days of incubation and care, more than 90 percent of the clutch hatched. The next challenge was to find out what I could feed these larval hellbenders and how I could get a reliable supply of food to feed more than 300 mouths. Aquatic invertebrates, plentiful in the outfalls of Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, were the answer. I was thrilled when the first young hellbenders consumed the small invertebrates. Now, after diversifying their diet with a variety of worms, crayfish and freeze-dried krill, the hellbenders are large enough to accept a pit tag, injected just under the skin in the tail area

In July, after exactly 1,000 days of care, the Conservation Department made its first release of juvenile Eastern hellbenders into the wild that were cultured in a state fish hatchery. Only 100 of them were tagged and released to provide space in the limited tanks available to grow hellbenders at the hatchery. The 100 juveniles released doubled the estimated Eastern hellbender population in the Ozark stream. The hellbenders averaged 9.5" in total length and weighed a little more than 3 ounces. These animals will continue to be monitored. Finding the small individuals is a challenge, but we hope to learn much about their survival, behavior and distribution over the next few years. This release compliments the Ozark hellbender captive breeding, propagation and release work accomplished at the St Louis Zoo over the past 15 years.

Tour a Hatchery

Two of our most popular hatchery destinations are Shepherd of the Hills and Lost Valley fish hatcheries. Take a free tour to learn more about Missouri fisheries and see how a modern hatchery functions first-hand.

Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery

Shepherd of the Hills is the largest trout production facility in the Department of Conservation’s trout production program. The primary role for this facility is the production of rainbow and brown trout. The hatchery boasts a Conservation Center that receives 250,000 visitors annually and provides a vast amount of information to the public with a focus on fisheries.

Area Hours: September–June: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Memorial Day–Labor Day: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Directions: The hatchery and conservation center are located on Highway 165 just south of Branson, below the dam at Table Rock Lake.

Tours: Guided hatchery tours are provided at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. weekdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the remainder of the year, self-guided tours are available.


Phone: 417-334-4865

Lost Valley Hatchery

Lost Valley Hatchery is the largest warm-water state-owned hatchery in Missouri and one of the 10 largest in the nation. The hatchery building houses a 2,000-square-foot visitor center with a 12,700-gallon aquarium. Fish species being raised at the hatchery include walleye, muskellunge, channel catfish, largemouth bass, striped and hybrid striped bass, bluegill and hybrid sunfish.

Area Hours: 9 a.m.–4p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, year-round.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Directions: Lost Valley Fish Hatchery and Visitor Center is located east of Highway 65 at the Truman Dam access road on County Road 620 just northeast of Warsaw.


Phone: 660-438-4465

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