ST. JAMES, Mo.—The recent flooding events that occurred at the end of April and first week of May not only caused major disruptions in everyday life, they also posed a significant threat to the trout at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Maramec Spring Hatchery near St. James. However, MDC staff rallied with quick action that averted potential disaster for the fish.
Heavy rains during this period reached up to three inches a day and created unprecedented swelling of the Meramec River. “Luckily, it did not get up near our hatchery pools, but it did swell up the spring branch again and brought more unneeded water into the park,” said MDC Assistant Hatchery Manager Kyle Case.
The threat of the rising Meramec and encroaching flood waters forecasted the last weekend of April posed imminent danger to fish in the raceways. Fortunately, MDC staff already had put a plan in place to address the problem.
“We installed flood covers on our serial raceways on April 28 in preparation for the flood waters to come over the weekend,” Case said. He added that a diverse group of MDC personnel came to the hatchery staff’s aid, including employees from the Department’s Fisheries, Forestry, Protection, and Design and Development Divisions.
“Overall, it took us three hours to install the 56 aluminum covers, which span 12 feet wide and stretch over 400 feet of raceway, to help the keep the hatchery fish in when the flood waters covered the pools,” explained Case.
As the flood waters rose that weekend, they completely submerged the covered raceways. Since the covers were built in 2008 they have been deployed on the raceways about six times, but this flood turned out to be the highest yet.
Case said the covers proved their worth. “At the water’s peak, you could not tell where the dam or the raceways were. It was all one big pool of murky water covering the entire hatchery and park.”
According to Case, the hatchery did not have a cover large enough for the production pool. In the past, flood waters have never threatened the large pool, even during the flood of December, 2015.
During this flood, however, the production pool was engulfed in at least 18 inches of water. Hatchery staff was concerned that the 20,000 12.5-inch trout in the pool might be gone when the waters receded.
After a touch-and-go weekend, most of the fish were apparently able to hunker down and stayed put.
“The fish survived the flood and are doing fine,” reported Hatchery Manager Wes Swee. “All the fish under the covers survived and did not escape. The larger round pool was inundated and I'm sure a few escaped but we won’t know exact numbers until we finish stocking out the pool in a couple months.”
Swee stressed however that anglers should not be concerned. “We will have plenty of fish to finish the season. All the MDC hatcheries operate as one complete system to help when we have an event like this,” he said.
The Maramec Spring Hatchery is located in Maramec Spring Park, which is owned and operated by The James Foundation and contains the fifth largest spring in the state.
For more on trout fishing in Missouri, go to https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/species/trout.