Sound scientific principles are the foundation of successful aquatic species conservation and management. Inks Dam NFH will consistently strive to develop and implement new techniques and procedures to improve our daily work activities and hatchery products.
Inks Dam NFH has a total of 30 earthen ponds ranging in size from ¼ acre to 1½ acre and utilized for channel catfish production. Typically, biologists employ the smaller ponds for early rearing of the catfish fry and as the size of the fish increase fish are moved to larger and larger ponds. Some ponds are utilized for spawning because of their design, or some to overwinter fish, but normally all the ponds are used.
This building is primarily utilized for hatching and early culture of the channel catfish. Inside it contains a series (fourteen in total) of small raceways. Raceways 11 and 12 contain the paddlewheel which is used for hatching the catfish spawns taken from the spawning ponds. Raceways 8-11 and 13 and 14 contain troughs for the newly hatched catfish fry and their early feed training. The remainder of these indoor raceways are utilized for “grow-out” of the newly feed trained fry until they are stocked.
At Inks Dam NFH any fish that is not local or “out-of-basin” is housed in our Isolation Building or Shade Structure. This “Isolation” technique prevents any species from being discharged into the Colorado River basin or escapement in the catfish production ponds. The Isolation Building and Shade Structure have their discharge water plumbed into a sump pond and the water that is collected in the sump pond is evaporated into the atmosphere or filtered back into the water table in the ground.
Large Outdoor Raceways
Inks Dam NFH has four sixty foot outdoor raceways. This is typically what everyone thinks of when then think of hatcheries. Biologists use these primarily for holding channel catfish prior to loading and distribution by the Regional Distribution Unit (RDU). This is to ensure that only channel catfish get transported and delivered to their stocking locations without spreading other fish species, vegetation, invertebrates, or diseases to other states. These raceways can also be utilized for treating sick fish.
Water quality monitoring allows us to adjust feeding rates and schedules as needed to accommodate increased fish metabolism during periods of high water temperature and low dissolved oxygen levels. Monitoring and managing the production of stable algal blooms through the use of inorganic fertilizers helps biologists add additional oxygen to the ponds. Staff can also apply the use of solar powered aeration or diesel powered tractors to increase oxygen or water quality. The goal of Inks Dam NFH, like all USFWS facilities, is to return the water we utilize in our programs back to its source better.
Most of the current research Inks Dam NFH hatchery conducts is focused on the endangered species in our care. Biologists conduct work on commercial feed and feeding techniques, genetics, natural lighting, and water recirculation for the Clear Creek gambusia. This is not to say that species such as the channel catfish do not receive the same attention in the research arena.
Staff continually develops pond density levels to prevent or limit disease outbreaks; feed and feed type research is continually ongoing; as well as, transport research, solar aeration and bird predation prevention techniques.
Regional Distribution Unit
The Regional Distribution Unit (RDU) is a large distribution semi-vehicle housed at Inks Dam NFH that is used to deliver fish from various hatcheries in support of Region 2 Fisheries Program. The RDU has three 650 gallon transport tanks that are equipped with aeration equipment, oxygen supplementation, recirculation pumps, water filters, a temperature control system, and water quality monitoring system with controls and displays in the cab of the vehicle. During any given year the RDU will travel over 20,000 miles hauling fish for Tribal Trust stockings, other sport fishes, as well as threatened and endangered species.