This year, MDC celebrates the 75th anniversary of putting the state’s citizen-led conservation efforts into action. In this issue, we highlight the Department’s diverse sportfishing management efforts that conserve and enhance Missouri’s world-class fishing.
Great fishing is at the heart of enjoying Missouri’s outdoors. From farm ponds, streams and lakes, to the nation’s largest rivers, Missouri offers an abundance of sport-fishing opportunities to connect anglers with the thrill of a lifetime.
Since the Department was established in 1937, it has led efforts to ensure that the legacy of great fishing in the Show-Me State will only get better. Enhancing Missouri’s sport fishing takes many forms: hatcheries and stocking, broad partnerships for habitat-improvement projects, refining fishing regulations, watershed conservation, and improving fisheries and fishing access through federal programs.
Hatcheries and Stocking
In 1878, the Missouri Legislature authorized Missouri’s first Fish Commission, which began the state’s restocking efforts. The early Fish Commission’s greatest achievement was to begin the development of a fish-hatchery system that is still important today.
“Back then, fisheries workers would stop a train at a river crossing and pour fish out of milk cans to stock the local streams,” says Chris Vitello, MDC Fisheries Division chief. “At that time, restocking was the only tool in the toolbox. But it was soon apparent that improvements needed to be made to regulations and to the stream itself to support those fish and to allow them to thrive.”
Today’s hatcheries and stocking efforts continue to be a major focus of the Department. MDC’s hatcheries produce almost 9 million fish each year, including largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, paddlefish and both rainbow and brown trout. The Department’s hatchery system includes four warm-water and five cold-water hatcheries. MDC’s warm-water hatcheries produce enough fish to meet stocking needs in Missouri and also provide fish for occasional trades with other states. The Department’s cold-water hatcheries produce millions of trout to stock four trout parks, Lake Taneycomo and selected coldwater streams designated as trout waters.
Over the past decade, MDC’s hatcheries have undergone extensive renovations to improve the Department’s ability to raise a variety of warm- and cold-water fish species. These improvements ensure that MDC will continue to efficiently produce the millions of sport fish needed for stocking. MDC hatcheries also participate in research and breeding of rare or threatened species, such as Topeka shiners and Ozark hellbenders, further benefiting the aquatic resources