Raising Striped Bass
To elaborate on one species, the Welaka National Fish hatchery is part of a major national emphasis on restoring the Gulf Coast Striped Bass (also called rockfish).
Adult stripers, captured from our rivers and reared at the hatchery, provide the eggs for the hatchery program. Once the eggs and milt (sperm) are taken, the adults taken from the wild are returned to their native waters.
The fertilized eggs are incubated, and the larval fry that hatch from the eggs are cultured artificially. Newborn fish have their own food supply in an attached yolk sac. After this source is absorbed, the tiny fish are transferred to hatchery rearing ponds where they feed on a natural diet of microscopic organisms. Young striped bass are particularly vulnerable to pollution, starvation, and predators during these stages and in the wild, untold numbers are lost. However, on the hatchery the fish are protected and experience the best possible conditions for surviving.
After 25 to 40 days, these fish grow to an average length of 2 inches and some are stocked at this size. Others are held and fed scientifically formulated diets to attain maximum growth. By the fall, these fish have reached a size of 6 to 8 inches and are ready for stocking. These larger fish are stocked into special areas of selected river systems and tributaries from which they originated. Fishery managers expect that these supplemental stockings will help restore depleted striped bass populations. A number of fish are tagged, enabling biologists to evaluate the success of the stocking programs.