Who We Are
Edenton National Fish Hatchery (NFH), operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has been producing fish for public use and restoration for well over a century. Established in 1898, the 63 acre hatchery is one of the oldest, built in the historic port town of Edenton, North Carolina at the head of the Albemarle Sound, 90 miles southwest of Norfolk, Virginia.
Edenton National Fish Hatchery is one of fourteen hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Southeast Region. These hatcheries serve a vital role in the management of our fishery resources.
What We Do
This is a National Fish Hatchery which is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and is supported by your Federal tax dollars. Fish raised on Federal hatcheries are stocked in public waters to support Federal fishery responsibilities mandated by law. These include fish for restoration where, for example, man-made dams have altered a stream’s natural reproductive capability; to recover threatened or endangered populations; to restore interjurisdictional fish populations, or to support depleted recreational fish populations in Federal and state waters.
Edenton maintains the capability to quickly respond and restore fish populations decimated by man-made or natural disasters. In recent years, Edenton has produced largemouth bass and bluegill to recover waters devastated by hurricanes Floyd and Isabel.
Edenton NFH provides fishery management assistance to National Wildlife Refuges in the Carolinas and Virginia. The hatchery also provides assistance in state waters of the Chowan/Nottoway/Meherrin/Blackwater River system, focusing on restoration of declining river herring (Alewife and Blueback herring) populations, which may require hatchery production in the future.
How We Do It
Edenton NFH is a warmwater hatchery. This means the fish raised here do best in water temperatures above 65 degrees.
For the production of Atlantic striped bass, personnel from Edenton NFH, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and North Carolina Marine Fisheries collect adult “broodfish” from the wild during spawning runs. These adults are transported to the Watha state fish hatchery where they are monitored for egg maturation. They spawn naturally in circular tanks where the eggs are collected for hatching. The five-day-old fry are collected and transported to Edenton for grow-out.
The rearing ponds are fertilized to encourage the growth of tiny microorganisms on which the young fry feed until they reach fingerling size of about one to three inches. Most hatcheries stock their striped bass at this size. Edenton on the other hand, grades them to uniform sizes, and re-stocks ponds for what is called “Phase-II growout”. These fish are grown to around eight inches in length and released in late fall. While this method is more intensive, it yields much greater survival due to reduced predation and better (cooler) water temperatures at stocking.
The ponds where the fish are reared are specially constructed with a concrete catch basin or “kettle” in front of the drain. When the fish are ready to be transferred, various size screens can be inserted in the kettle to allow the water, but not the fish, to drain out. The fish collect here and can be removed with nets when the pond is nearly empty. Fish are weighed and counted and then loaded onto specially designed distribution trucks with oxygen for transport to stocking sites.
Once at the stocking site, hatchery biologists pump water from the river or lake into the tanks on the distribution truck for a period of 30 minutes to an hour or more. This is to acclimate the fish to the water in terms of temperature and water chemistry (pH, salinity, etc). Once released, they are not shocked by a sudden change of water, and disperse into the receiving waters in good health.
American shad production is somewhat different. Wild broodfish are collected from the rivers, and brought to Edenton where tissue samples are taken for genetic analysis and tracking. The fish spawn in circular tanks at the hatchery, and the eggs are hatched in special incubation jars. The fry are fed newly hatched brine shrimp for about a week, then released into North Carolina rivers.
Why do we need federal hatcheries and who pays for them?
What kind of fish do you raise?
Where do you stock your fish?
How do you get the eggs from the fish?
Do you provide fish to private individuals?
Do you give tours of the hatchery?