Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery and Aquarium
Mountain-Prairie Region
Gavins Point Fish Culture and Stocking: (Photos clockwise from left) Gavins Point stocking truck, Hatching jars filled with eggs, Spawning a pallid sturgeon

Fish Culture

Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery is an unusually complex hatchery. Beginning fish culture operations in 1961, the hatchery raises 12 to 16 species of sport fish, and has produced more than 5 billion fish for stocking or release in mid-western waters. The fish raised at the hatchery can be categorized into three broad areas, which include cold water, cool water, and warm water fish.  The fish eggs are hatched in jar batteries located in the hatchery building, and 36 outdoor ponds are used to raise the young fish to a desired size range.  These fish are later stocked into various water bodies.


Small pond where smallmouth and largemouth bass are allowed to reproduce naturally.Fish raised at the hatchery must be spawned at exactly the right time, which varies from species to species. Egg hatching and fish rearing needs also differ according to species. For example, walleye are hatched in glass jars, and trout in plastic trays. Largemouth and smallmouth adult bass are placed into ponds and are allowed to reproduce naturally. Rainbow trout require running water,while other fish prefer standing water. Each species not only favors certain types, but also sizes of food particles. Therefore, both must be matched to the growing fish.


While the last snows of winter still linger, biologists trap the walleye, a cool water species, and take their eggs and milt (sperm). After the eggs and milt are taken, the adult fish are returned unharmed to the wild. The eggs are fertilized immediately with the milt and are placed in glass jars in the hatchery. Under these controlled conditions, fish culturists achieve a high percentage of survival. Most cool water fish are stocked as "fry" at less than one-half inch long, but some are placed into rearing ponds until they reach "fingerling" size (2 to 5 inches).


StockingSpawning captive pallid sturgeon at Gavins Point NFH

Paddlefish and pallid sturgeon are also hatched in plastic jars in the Endangered Species building. Once the fry have hatched, they swim from the jars into plastic tanks, where they are fed an artificial diet. Paddlefish are later released into ponds, where they grow up to 17 inches in one year on artificial and natural feed. Pallid sturgeon are kept in indoor circular tanks until they are tagged and released into the wild.


When fish are stocked into the wild, they must be transported from one mile to over 1,000 miles. We have several trucks that are capable of hauling fish, with each truck having a tank, aerator, and oxygen system.


Walleye Stocking

Gavins Point NFH had another successful year with walleye production, and in April 2011 we stocked 279,000 fingerlings in Shadehill Reservoir, 310,000 fingerlings in Angustora Reservoir, and 26,000 fingerlings in Lake Yankton.  We also transferred over 2 million fry to our state partners in Oklahoma, Nevada, and Nebraska.  We would like to thank our partners with Nebraska Game and Parks for their assistance with this stocking effort.


Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Crappie, Muskie and Trout Stocking

In 2011, we were able to work with our state and tribal partners to improve fishing in the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.  We provided the state of South Dakota with 45,000 bluegill and 64,000 crappie for stocking in area waters. Additionally, in our first attempt at propagating muskie, we harvested 272 fingerling muskie and stocked them in Northern Island Reservoir.  We also worked with our tribal partners to stock 4,500 trout and 8,000 bass at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  The Kickapoo tribe received 16,000 bluegill and 7,600 crappie.