Learn about Japanese fish printing at MDC's Shoal Creek Conservation Center in Joplin

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JOPLIN, Mo. – Long before cameras were around to provide pictures of proud anglers holding the fish they caught, some Japanese used ink and paper to show off their catch.

Gyotaku, also known as Japanese fish printing, will be the topic of a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) program on March 19 at MDC’s Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center in Joplin. This program, which will be 1-2:30 p.m., is free and suggested for ages 10 and up. People can register for this program at


Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese art that began as a way for anglers to keep records of the fish they caught. People applied ink to one side of a freshly caught fish, then cover the fish with rice paper and rub it to create an exact image of the fish. Over time, pictures of aquatic plants and other embellishments were added to the print of the fish and what had originally been solely a method for identifying fish developed into an art form.

At the March 19 program, MDC Naturalist Jessie Ballard will demonstrate how this unique art form can be used to highlight characteristics of fish found in Missouri waters. Program participants will have an opportunity to create their own fish prints. All art supplies will be provided. Participants should dress in clothes suitable for working with paint. COVID procedures will be followed for this program.

MDC’s Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center is located at 201 Riviera Drive in Joplin. People can stay informed about upcoming programs at the Shoal Creek Center and other nearby MDC facilities by signing up for text alerts and e-mail bulletins. People who have questions about how to sign up for text alerts from the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center can call 417-629-3434.

Staff at MDC facilities across the state are holding in-person and virtual programs. A listing of these programs can be found at mdc.mo.gov/events.