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Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery

31227 436th Ave. | Yankton, SD 57078
Phone: (605) 665-3352 | Email: gavinspoint@fws.gov

About The Hatchery

Fish Culture | Game Fish | Endangered and Threatened Species | The Aquarium | Youth Conservation Corps Program | Public Information | Open / Close All

About Us

Collage of Gavins Point NFH species. Credit: USFWS.

Collage of Gavins Point NFH species. Credit: USFWS.

Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery (NFH) and Aquarium, near Yankton, South Dakota, is strategically placed between Lake Yankton and the Missouri River. It is one of 70 federal hatcheries and fish technology centers operated nationwide by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Gavins Point NFH offers fully guided group tours, fish feeding opportunities, two miles of nature trails and a 26 species aquarium. Visitors are welcome at the hatchery year round, but the aquarium is only open April through September.

 


Fish Culture »

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  • Bass fish. Credit: USFWS.

    Bass. Credit: USFWS.

  • Trout eggs. Credit: USFWS.

    Trout eggs. Credit: USFWS.

  • Walleye. Credit: USFWS.

    Walleye. Credit: USFWS.

Fish Culture
Since 1961, over 5 billion fish, made up of 16 different species, have been produced at Gavins Point NFH. Each fish takes a unique journey before reaching its destination.

The fish eggs and milt are acquired in many different ways. Paddlefish, blue suckers, shovelnose sturgeon and sometimes wild pallid sturgeon are captured and reared at the hatchery for weeks at a time. After taking the eggs and milt, the fish are released back into the wild. However, walleye and perch are never brought back to the hatchery, since their eggs are taken immediately after capture. The hatchery also has captive broodstock populations of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill and black crappie, which spawn naturally in the earth ponds.

The majority of the species that don’t spawn in the ponds are hatched in jar batteries. These jars constantly keep the eggs rolling, which prevents them from sticking together. Yellow perch are hatched on incubation trays, which ensure plenty of oxygen is available to the eggs.
Gavins Point NFH has 36 earth ponds that cover over 40 acres. All of the fish, except for pallid sturgeon, spend part of their culturing period here. These spacious ponds allow the young fish to avoid predators and mature quicker than they would in the wild. The ponds are mostly self-sustaining, since they are fed by Lewis and Clark Lake. They are strategically designed with a catch basin, which allows biologists to easily harvest fish when they need to be stocked out.

As a federal hatchery, Gavins Point NFH sends fish all over the Midwest. Most of the fish are stocked in tribal, federal and state waters. However, some of our fish are saved for research that is done at federal facilities and state universities. In one case, we even sent paddlefish fry to India.


Spawing a wild Pallid Sturgeon. Credit: USFWS.

Spawing a wild Pallid Sturgeon. Credit: USFWS.

Stocking
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.


Gavins Point stocking truck. Credit: USFWS.

Gavins Point stocking truck. Credit: USFWS.

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.


Game Fish »

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Gavins Point NFH is considered a combination hatchery because the fish raised here are considered cold, cool or warm water fish. Listed below are three different fish species raised at our hatchery that are examples of fishes from each temperature category.

Rainbow Trout (cold water)
Where they’ve been stocked: South Dakota
When they are raised: year round

Rainbow trout require cooler water temperatures with high oxygen content. Eggs are received at the hatchery throughout the year, with the majority of them raised for stocking purposes. Trout that are stocked out in the spring and fall when water temperatures are ideal. Some trout are raised and kept at the hatchery for a Kids Fishing Derby held every April.


Illustration of a Walleye fish. Credit: USFWS.

Illustration of a Walleye fish. Credit: USFWS.

Walleye (cool water)
Where they’ve been stocked: South Dakota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa
When they are raised:
April – June

Walleye is the state fish of South Dakota and one of the most sought after game fish in the Midwest. The eggs and milt are collected in April from wild fish with the help of other state agencies. Some years, up to 100 million eggs are brought back to the hatchery. The walleye are either stocked out as fry in April or fingerlings in June.


Yellow Perch (cool water)
Where they’ve been stocked: South Dakota, Iowa When they are raised: April – June

Perch are closely related to the walleye and are raised in a unique way at the hatchery. Instead of hatching in tanks like most fish, perch eggs are placed on evergreen trees that are sunk to the bottom of the ponds. After sinking the eggs, the fish hatch and aren’t seen again until it is time for harvest.


Illustration of a Largemouth Bass. Credit: USFWS.

Illustration of a Largemouth Bass. Credit: USFWS.

Largemouth Bass (warm water)
Where they’ve been stocked: South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico
When they are raised:
May – July

Adult largemouth bass are held at the hatchery year round and spawn naturally in the outdoor ponds. In June, the adults are separated from the fry, which stay in the ponds to finish their culture cycle. We regularly separate the young bass based on size because they are known to be very cannibalistic.


Smallmouth Bass (warm water)
Where they’ve been stocked: South Dakota, Nebraska
When they are raised:
May – July

Like the largemouth bass, adult smallmouths are held at the hatchery year round and spawn naturally in the ponds. Smallmouth is one of the newest species at the hatchery. They are known for their copper color and tiger like stripes, giving them the nickname “bronzebacks.” Smallmouth prefer cooler and deeper waters than largemouth.


Bluegill (warm water)
Where they’ve been stocked: South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska
When they are raised:
May – August

Bluegills are considered the most popular pan fish in the Midwest. Like the bass, our bluegills spawn naturally in the earth ponds. Bluegills are a part of the sunfish family, which allows them to form many hybrids in the wild. Our bluegills are typically stocked in smaller bodies of water as a sport fish and as forage for the bigger fish.


Black Crappie (warm water)
Where they’ve been stocked: South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska
When they are raised:
May – August

Black crappies are another popular pan fish that are stocked in smaller bodies of water. They spawn at similar temperatures as the bluegill, which allows us to harvest both species at the same time. We have adult black crappies that live in our earth ponds year round.


Endangered and Threatened Species »

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Although Gavins Point NFH raises many types of sport fish, their primary work is propagation and management of endangered and threatened species.


Spawing a wild Pallid Sturgeon. Credit: USFWS.

Spawing a wild Pallid Sturgeon. Credit: USFWS.

Pallid Sturgeon
The pallid sturgeon, federally listed as endangered, is an ancient fish that can live up to 50 years, grow up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 85 pounds. The construction of dams and dredging has caused river habitat to change, preventing the fish from reproducing. Pallid sturgeon require fast flowing water over a gravel or sand bottom to spawn.

The pallid sturgeon's diet consists of aquatic insects, snails, mussels, crustaceans and small fish. Their barbels allow them to locate food and their mouth acts like a vacuum when inhaling their prey.

The pallid sturgeon is present in both the Missouri and Mississippi River drainages. At this time, it’s estimated only 6,000-10,000 fish are left in both river systems. With current stocking efforts at Gavins Point NFH, along with habitat restoration efforts, these numbers may increase in the future.


Baby paddlefish. Credit: USFWS.

Baby paddlefish. Credit: USFWS.

Paddlefish
The paddlefish is a species of concern 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 rostrum, which is believed to be used for sensing their primary source of food called zooplankton.
Gavins Point NFH provides paddlefish fry and eggs to several hatcheries and research facilities. They also keep eggs for themselves, which are raised at the hatchery until September. Each year, they stock up to 25,000 paddlefish in Lake Francis Case, a reservoir on the Missouri River.

To make the paddlefish grow quickly, they are put on a pelleted diet. On this type of feed, they can grow up to 12 inches in less than four months.


Blue sucker. Credit: USFWS.

Blue sucker. Credit: USFWS.

Blue Suckers
Blue sucker is another species of concern native to the Missouri and Mississippi River basins. Unlike most fish, blue suckers prefer high-velocity waters, much of which was lost due to dam construction.

These powerful fish feed off the bottom where they can easily locate food. This allows them to survive in muddy streams that are typical of the Great Plains.

Blue suckers are a fairly new species at the hatchery. Gavins Point NFH made unsuccessful attempts in 2010 and 2013 to spawn them; however, new knowledge of environmental requirements for successful spawning will be applied in upcoming seasons.


The Aquarium »

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  • Albino catfish. Credit: USFWS.

    Albino catfish. Credit: USFWS.

  • Bass. Credit: USFWS.

    Bass. Credit: USFWS.

Gavins Point NFH has a 15 tank aquarium that displays fish, reptiles and amphibians. The aquarium features animals native to the Missouri River, endangered and threatened fish, invasive species and unusual species. At times, there are up to 26 different species living at the aquarium.

Many school groups tour here to take in this living classroom. In the aquarium, visitors become part of the aquatic environment. Each display mimics natural environments where you can witness snapping turtles swimming, salamanders burrowing or catfish feeding. Hatchery personnel and educational displays can help interpret the natural history of each tank for any age group.

The aquarium is home to some very unique species. The most popular fish is “Oscar” the albino channel catfish. He was caught in the late 2000s by a local angler and was donated to the aquarium. Another popular species is the unusual mirror carp, which is a genetically mutated common carp. Visitors are always fascinated with the paddlefish and they can be seen filter feeding in the tank. There is also a leucistic snapping turtle, which has white skin with a regular colored shell.

The aquarium is open daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, April through September.


Youth Conservation Corps Program »

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Youth Conservation Corps student holding a catfish. Credit: USFWS.

Youth Conservation Corps student holding a catfish. Credit: USFWS.

Gavins Point NFH resurrected the Youth Conservation Corps program in 2011 by hiring two local high school students. The students gained experience in fish culture and had an opportunity to participate in all hatchery activities. The eight-week program is designed to provide youth with exposure to natural resource management as a career option. The program has continued ever since and will be a part of the hatchery for the foreseeable future.


Public Information »

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Outreach and Education Programs

  • Youth fishermen. Credit: USFWS.

    Youth fishermen. Credit: USFWS.

  • Students learn about the hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

    Students learn about the hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

  • Students learn about the hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

    Youth Fisherman. Credit: USFWS.

Each year, about 80 different school groups and organizations tour Gavins Point NFH. In 2013, the hatchery had over 100,000 visitors from 40 different states and nine different countries.

Thanks to hatchery staff and dedicated volunteers, the outreach programs have been very successful. During the busier months, the hatchery staff relies on volunteers to provide tours, organize events and answer any questions that visitors might have.

Some public outreach events held at the hatchery are the Kids Fishing Derby, Aquarium Open House and 5K Fun Run. The education also reaches beyond the hatchery boundaries. In 2013, staff took part in projects like Trout in the Classroom, Missouri River Cleanup, Missouri River Festival, River Boat Days, Outdoor Days and Carp Control: Vermillion Middle School.

To learn about volunteer opportunities at Gavins Point NFH: http://www.volunteer.gov/

In 2013, Gavins Point NFH launched its social media campaign. Through multiple outlets, hatchery staff has been able to virtually reach about 50,000 people a year.

Visitors are encouraged to follow the Facebook and Twitter pages to see what’s going on at the hatchery. Some things you can expect to see and learn about are baby fish, endangered species, aquarium creatures and fish culture techniques.

Hatchery Building:
7:00 am - 3:30 pm
Monday through Friday
Memorial Day through Labor Day
7 days a week

Aquarium:
May through September
10:00 am to 5:00 pm
7 days a week
April and October
10:00 am to 3:30 pm
Monday through Friday
November through March - Closed.

To like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GavinsPointNationalFishHatchery
To follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GavinsPointNFH
To view us on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/

Gavins Point NFH area map.

Gavins Point NFH area map. Credit: USFWS.

Map Highlights

  1. 1) Aquarium - Thirteen indoor tanks display many of the fish, reptile, and amphibian species found in the Missouri River basin, along with informational displays on endangered, threatened, and unusual species.

  2. 2) Public Parking - for hatchery visitors.

  3. 3) Hatchery Building - Contains a small exhibit area, administrative offices, 2 hatching jar batteries, 9 indoor cement tanks, workshop, and feed room. Visitors are welcome to view the eggs in the hatching jars and the fish being raised in the tanks.

  4. 4) Raceways - Eight outdoor raceways are used to rear trout and to temporarily hold other species.

  5. 5) Rearing Ponds - Six 1/6 acre and 30 1.3-acre earthen ponds are used to for raising cool and warm water fish. Visitors are welcome to walk around the ponds, but please use caution as the ponds are 7 feet deep.

  6. 6) Sturgeon Building - Ten circular tanks are used to hold and rear endangered pallid sturgeon and other "species of concern" from the Missouri River drainage. For the protection of the fish, the building is closed to the public except by guided tours.

  7. 7) Endangered Species Building - Thirty two circular tanks are used to hold and rear endangered pallid sturgeon and other "species of concern" from the Missouri River drainage. For the protection of the fish, the building is closed to the public except by guided tours.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: May 13, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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