Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery and Aquarium
Mountain-Prairie Region
Gavins Point Threatened and Endangered Species: (Photos clockwise from left) Adult pallid sturgeon, Volunteers stirring pallid sturgeon eggs, Paddlefish illustration


Threatened and Endangered Fish Species

Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery (NFH) raises the endangered pallid sturgeon and the paddlefish, which is a "species of concern" in many states. The fish are spawned here at Gavins Point in our Sturgeon and Endangered Species buildings and later released to increase or maintain fish populations in the wild. Endangered fish populations have decreased or have been eliminated in many areas due to habitat degradation, over fishing, or other environmental concerns.


Pallid SturgeonJuvenile pallid sturgeon

The pallid sturgeon is an endangered ancient fish that can live up to 50 years, grow up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 85 pounds.  Dam construction and over fishing are major causes of the pallid sturgeon's decline in the past 50 years.  The construction of dams and dredging has caused river habitat to change, preventing the fish from reproducing.  Pallid sturgeon require muddy water that is fast flowing over gravel or sand to successfully reproduce.


The pallid sturgeon's diet consists of aquatic insects, snails, mussels, crustaceans, and small fish. Whiskers help them feel for food along the river bottoms.  They have a mouth on the underside of their nose, and use the mouth like a vacuum cleaner to suck the food into their body.


The pallid sturgeon is present in both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  At this time, there are only an estimated 6,000-10,000 fish in both river systems.  However, with current stocking efforts at Gavins Point and other fish hatcheries, along with habitat restoration efforts, these numbers may increase in the future.


Paddlefish art by Duane RaverPaddlefish

The paddlefish is native to the Missouri, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers.  Paddlefish numbers have dropped in recent years due to dam construction, dredging, and over fishing in many areas.   The paddlefish has a long nose or rostrum, which is believed to be used for sensing their primary source of food called zooplankton.  


At Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery, our primary purpose is to spawn adult paddlefish in May to provide paddlefish fry and eggs to several hatchery and research facilities.  The hatcheries raise the young fish to an age for stocking into different reservoirs.  We also raise around 25,000 fish each year to stock into Lake Francis Case, which is a Missouri River reservoir located in South Dakota.  While these young paddlefish are being reared in our ponds, they eat tiny aquatic animals called zooplankton.  To make the paddlefish grow faster than they would on a diet of plain zooplankton, we train them to feed upon pelleted food.  On this type of diet, the paddlefish grow up to 17 inches in less than a year!