New Minnows in Town
BY RUSSELL HIVELY, FRIENDS OF NEOSHO NFH
There is a new minnow at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery (NFH). Two hundred tiny Topeka shiners now swim at the bottom of an outdoor raceway on the hatchery grounds. These tiny fish are an endangered species that primarily lives in the creeks, ponds, and sloughs in northwest Missouri. Changes of habitat and other circumstances have put this minnow on the Endangered Species List.
Rod May, assistant manager of the Neosho NFH, explained that the shiners are "non-essential," which means they are endangered, but are not completely extinct in the wild.
Lost Valley State Fish Hatchery, near Warsaw, Missouri, has been raising the shiners in a pond. Neosho NFH staff is trying something different. "This is experimental, as they have never been raised in a raceway before," May said. When spawning time arrives in a couple months, a group of yellow spot sunfish will be placed in the raceway with the shiners. The male yellow spot sunfish will make nests in the nesting boxes that the staff already has in place. The male yellow spots will lure the female yellow spots into the nests where they will lay their eggs to be fertilized. And like a cow bird that lays its eggs in another bird's nest, the Topeka shiners will sneak into the yellow spot's nests and deposit their eggs, too. The yellow spots will then protect all the eggs like a good parent.
After the eggs hatch, they will be siphoned off the nest to be separated by species later. These tiny fish and eggs will require gentle care because of their small size. May said he enjoys the experimental aspect of his job and would like to eventually install underwater cameras to record the habits of these fish.
Those who have visited the raceways always notice the rapid flow of water where the rainbow trout are growing. The raceway filled with Topeka shiners will be noticeably quiet and appear empty, with only a seep of water used to control the temperature. But upon close examination, a visitor will see a cloudy school of shiners swimming on the bottom of the raceway. These Topeka shiner minnows are a part of an experiment to help preserve this endangered species. They are one more of the over 130 species that have been raised at Neosho NFH over the last 125 plus years.