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Serving: MO

Fish hatchery protects endangered species

Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Neosho National Fish Hatchery
SPAWN A SPECIES: Winter snow may cover the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, but it is still raising rainbow trout and two fish on the endangered species list.
The Neosho National Fish Hatchery raises ag’s nemesis — the pallid sturgeon.

This cold, snowy winter weather has me longing for warm summer days and fishing at the in-laws. Actually, their neighbors have a great little spot hidden in the cattle pasture where you throw out a line and almost always reel in a fish. Some are small sunfish, but others are big bass.

Now, you can’t go trespassing on this property, but Missouri has a number of places to fish. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, fishing is a $400 million industry in the state, including permits, bait, guides, boats, boat rentals, food, lodging and transportation.

The state has cold-water hatcheries, warm-water hatcheries and trout parks. But Missouri is also home to the oldest operating federal fish hatchery in the U.S.

Preserve a species

The Neosho National Fish Hatchery was started in 1888 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is in the southwest part of the state known as the Ozark Mountain Region, and it is one of 70 hatcheries operated by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Its mission is “to conserve and protect our nation’s fishery resources.”

The hatchery focuses on raising rainbow trout, pallid sturgeon and Topeka shiners. Both the pallid sturgeon and Topeka shiner are on the endangered species list.

Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlifeindoor circular fish tank at Neosho National Fish Hatchery

Despite the cold of winter, brown trout fry swim in an indoor circular fish tank at Neosho National Fish Hatchery in southwest Missouri.

Now, in Missouri’s agriculture community, pallid sturgeon is considered fightin’ words. Farmers have long questioned the federal government’s protection of this species in the Missouri River with the idea of expanding the width of the river.

This action would claim farmers’ productive bottom ground. Not an economical solution or environmental one. For me, these types of hatcheries may do more to boost endangered fish populations than widening a river.

Better stockers

The Neosho National Fish Hatchery raises as many as 15,000 pallid sturgeon to release into the Missouri River. It also stocks rainbow trout into one of my own family’s favorite fishing holes — Branson’s Lake Taneycomo. This makes economic and environmental sense.

So next time you are looking for some rest and relaxation from the rigors of the farm, stop by Neosho, learn a little history and see a lot of fish. Just don’t bring your rod and reel.

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