Trout home hits stride

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A year ago, Shepherd of the Hills fish hatchery took on a new look with the addition of a state-of-the-art brown trout rearing facility.

The operation now allows the Missouri Department of Conservation to raise thousands of brown trout annually. But in the first year of operation, the facility hit a few bumps in the road.

Coldwater Hatcheries Supervisor James Civiello said high water in the spring and elevated water temperatures caused some problems.

“This year, water temperatures got up to 66 degrees and that increases the number of parasites in the water. That, in turn, causes fish loss,” Civiello said.

About eight thousand gallons of water a minute comes into the new facility from Shepherd of the Hills rainbow trout hatchery via Table Rock Lake.

“We had a bit of a struggle dealing with the warm water but we got around it,” he said.

Civiello said the new facility is a step up in the department’s effort to grow more quality trout, not only for Lake Taneycomo but the region’s other cold water fisheries.

“The design is great. We put in 12 new rearing raceways and several intermediate raceways as fish get larger,” he said.

A big addition to the new rearing facility is a fish ladder — a concrete stair-step from the river to the hatchery — and big browns are finding their way home.

Civiello said it is natural for brown trout to return to where they were hatched and the ladder makes it easier for them to get back.

“Over the years, I’ve found that a fish ladder is very important to good production,” Civiello said.

“We got a very good return of 3-year-old broodstock. In three egg-takes, we got 300,000 eggs. It worked just the way we designed it,” he said.

The early life-stage of a brown trout can be touch and go. At a critical time, fish need to be protected from disease.

Civiello said incubation goes well, but when the fish hatch, they go through a life-stage called the sack fry.

“That’s when they have the embryonic sack they absorb. In that life-stage we cannot treat for parasites because you kill the production,” he said.

Civiello said they lucked out and had more fish available during this past year’s spawn.

“We took another spawn and moved those eggs to another building, which is protected from high concentrations of parasites,” he said.

Systemwide, the conservation department wants to increase brown trout volume by 20 percent.

Approximately 700,000 rainbow trout are released into Lake Taneycomo each year. The number of brown trout is around 10,000.

Other hatcheries in the state are being renovated to increase production capabilities, as well.

Renovations include the addition of liquid oxygen to help trout grow faster.

The new Branson facility has allowed Civiello to spread out production and create better fish quality. Other state hatcheries will also benefit during times of drought and poor water quality.

Shepherd of the Hills will be able to provide fish to keep their production numbers up.

The last renovation at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery was back in the 1970s.

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