at a place designed to raise trout. To anyone who has visited the facility, though, it makes perfect sense.
It’s true that Shepherd’s foremost mission is to fuel Missourians’ ongoing love affair with trout fishing. The state’s largest trout hatchery, located on the west end of Lake Taneycomo just below Table Rock Dam, raises approximately 1,250,000 rainbow and brown trout annually. More than 700,000 of those fish—the bulk of which are rainbows—go into Taneycomo each year.
Thanks in large part to the joint management efforts of Missouri Department of Conservation staff at Shepherd of the Hills, Empire District Electric Company (Empire owns the reservoir), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps operates Table Rock Dam), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Neosho, Lake Taneycomo has become a widely renowned trout-fishing destination. Cold-water discharges from Table Rock Dam during hydro-electric generation create water temperatures that are suitable for trout habitat over much of the lake’s 22-mile length. These good conditions, combined with the hatchery’s regular stocking efforts, have given the lake a well-deserved reputation for fish quantity and quality. The lake’s most recent headline grabber was the state-record 28.8-pound brown trout that was caught by Scott Sandusky of Arnold in November 2009. There’s ample evidence that even bigger fish lurk beneath the surface:
- In 2001, during their annual summer sampling at Lake Taneycomo, Missouri Department of Conservation biologists captured a brown trout that weighed approximately 37 pounds—a weight that would have shattered the recently set state record.
- In 1997, a dead brown trout weighing 37.1 pounds was found floating in Taneycomo. Even more interesting than its weight was the carcass’ length of 41.75 inches. This was greater than the length of the world record brown trout at that time, which led biologists to theorize that, when this behemoth brownie was alive and healthy, there was a good chance it had been a world record fish.
Shepherd of the Hills’ management efforts aren’t just about producing lunkers for Taneycomo. The hatchery also provides rainbow and brown trout for other Department of Conservation trout management areas in the state and supplies trout eggs and fingerlings to other Department of Conservation trout-production facilities.
However, the hatchery’s connection with the Blue Star Memorial Marker program isn’t as much about the thousands of fish that leave the hatchery each year as it is about the thousands of people