Neosho NFH Update
BRUCE HALLMAN, NEOSHO NFH
Now that July has come, and with it the heat and humidity, we are in the height of operations and projects at the hatchery.
For a three-week span in May and June, we hosted some of our biggest annual outreach events. For the second year, we were the hosts for the Neosho Music Fest – an all-afternoon event with bands, booths, silent auction, concessions and other activities to raise money for the Wounded Warrior project. The manager of the local Walgreens started the Music Fest three years ago, and it meshes well with our park-like environment. We hope to continue hosting this Memorial Day weekend event for many years to come. Approximately 600 people spent time at the hatchery because of our hospitality.
The other two big events followed on the first two Fridays of June – our fishing derbies. The Kids day is always the first Friday of June, and the Seniors/Disabled derby is the second Friday. Roughly 800 kids and their family members came to our Kids Derby – a day with great weather and lots of rainbow trout caught. We are so thankful for our Friends group and other volunteers that help with the registration, rods & reels, bait, catching and cleaning for this busy day. Thanks to Boeing, the kids all received an attractive t-shirt and so many kids had great time fishing – some for the very first time. A week later, about 300 came for our final derby of the year, and once again our volunteers helped to make it all a great success for everyone.
surroundings at Neosho NFH. Credit: USFWS
Also in May and June, hatchery staff attended fishing events for city youth in Kansas City Kansas AND Missouri. These were the product of Urban American Outdoors, a weekly reality show for the urban sportsman. The adventures and features of this weekly show are geared toward multicultural viewers, but are also for every outdoor sportsman. Since its initial airing in August 2003, the show has developed a loyal and growing following, and the founders Wayne Hubbard and Candice Price enjoy putting on these types of events for youth. The Service began partnering with them for last year’s Missouri fishing day, and this year, Service Director Dan Ashe and many others attended to show support and help out where needed. The Neosho National Fish Hatchery (NFH) provided 160 rods and reels, and the Friends group bought bait for the kids to use. Neosho NFH also transported several hundred rainbow trout for the Kansas event, and several hundred channel catfish and bluegills (donated from the Tishomingo NFH in OK) for the Missouri day. Many hundreds of kids and family members had a great time and all the various partners worked together seamlessly.
On a different note, our mussel program took an exciting new turn this spring. For the first time, breeding behavior was observed in our fatmucket mussels. Swollen egg pouches were seen in a March examination, and shortly after, lure production and displays followed. After a manual glochidia (larval mussels) extraction, we tried our hand at implantation in freshwater drum and rainbow trout. Despite what looked like a big success, no larval mussels ever were recovered after that point. We used the fish we had on hand, but these mussels use bass for their host fish and that led to our lack of results. But it was very encouraging to get this far in the process, and we’re hopeful for bigger and better things next year with appropriate changes to the program.
Other breeding news pertains to our newest federally endangered species project – the Topeka shiners. We received 200 of the minnows from a partner state hatchery in Missouri back in March. They have been living happily in their assigned raceway, and have shown activity in their breeding boxes along with their commensal partners, the orange spotted sunfish. As of this writing, we have yet to recover any fry of either species from the gravel nests, but we are anxiously watching and waiting.
May and June were also busy for us with our other big program – working with the federally endangered pallid sturgeon. May is the month for spawning these majestic creatures, and even though our female sturgeon released no eggs this year, last year’s crop is looking great. We hosted a tagging day with the help of Service workers from the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office and state conservation staff from Warsaw, Missouri. We were able to tag over 2600 yearlings that were at least nine inches in length with PIT tags, and we are soon to release them into the Missouri River for them to live out the remainders of their hopefully long and productive lives. We also just received hundreds of pallid eggs from Gavins Point NFH where we will study their growth and development in spring water versus well water. Certain water sources have been shown to produce fin curl in young sturgeon, and we hope to clarify things with this batch of sturgeon.
Even though routine seems to be the frequent word of the day, there is still some pretty exciting and innovative work going on here. We have three YCC youth and one regular volunteer that are helping greatly in our summer chores, and they are keeping the place in tiptop shape. Our visitation is at its peak, and so many groups and families are enjoying seeing what we do, why we do it and how it benefits us all. We are proud of our history – being the oldest operating federal fish hatchery in the country – but we are also pushing forward to break new ground and help our agency to fulfill its mission of conserving, protecting and enhancing fish and other aquatic life for the benefit of everyone.