Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery
Southeast Region
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Fact Sheet for Dale Hollow NFH

Trout release site.  Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

Station Facts

  • Established: 1965.
  • Number of staff: eight.

Station Goals

  • Provide rainbow, brown, brook, and lake trout for mitigation stocking in Tennessee and Georgia.
  • Provide rainbow trout to Alabama in return for Gulf Coast striped bass eggs and fry.
  • Provide a limited number of rainbow trout for non-mitigation stocking in Tennessee under a cooperative agreement with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
  • Assist in the recovery and restoration of imperiled aquatic species by developing propagation/culture techniques and rearing animals for reintroduction into the wild and for population augmentation.
  • Assist Tribal governments in managing fisheries resources on Tribal lands.
  • Work with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency to ensure a thorough, perennial hatchery product evaluation program.
  • Provide quality environmental education opportunities.
  • Maintain a "Friends Group" to gain community and regional support for the fish hatchery.
  • Cooperate with Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery Friends Group to maintain the Aquatics in the Classroom Program.
  • Provide recreational fishing opportunities for veterans through Project Healing Waters.
  • Develop and maintain partnerships with chambers of commerce, state tourism departments, and other agencies to promote regional support for recreational fishing and the fish hatchery.
  • Establish and maintain a pollinator garden providing specific benefits to the monarch butterfly.
  • Utilize the Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) framework to manage Fisheries resource priorities.

Geographic Area Covered

Stocking Alabama/Tennessee map.  Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

  • Stones River System, TN (mitigation) - J. Percy Priest Reservoir
  • tailwater (TW), Stones River.
  • Caney Fork River System, TN (mitigation) – Center Hill Reservoir TW
  • Obey River System, TN (mitigation) – Wolf River, Dale Hollow Reservoir and TW
  • Duck River System, TN (mitigation) – Normandy Reservoir TW
  • Elk River System, TN (mitigation) – Tims Ford Reservoir TW
  • Hiwassee River System, TN (mitigation) – Apalachia Reservoir TW
  • Clinch River System, TN (mitigation) – Norris Reservoir TW
  • Little Tennessee River System, TN (mitigation) – Tellico Reservoir, Tellico River
  • Little Tennessee River System, TN (Brookfield Smoky Mountain Hydropower) – Calderwood Reservoir, Chilhowee Reservoir
  • Holston River System, TN (mitigation) – Cherokee Reservoir TW, Ft. Patrick Henry Reservoir and TW, South Holston Reservoir and TW, Wilbur Reservoir and TW, Watauga Reservoir, Boone TW
  • Northern Georgia (mitigation) – Federal Water Development Projects
  • Sipsey River System, AL (restoration tradeoff) – Lewis Smith Reservoir TW
  • Red River System, TN (reimbursable) – Fort Campbell

Aquatic Species and Capability

  • RAINBOW TROUT are called rainbow trout because of the colorful pink to red lateral stripes on their sides. They tolerate waters which are associated with flood control dams. Their natural habitats consist of free flowing cool waters. Rainbow trout can grow as large as 52 pounds. Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery (NFH) distributed 1,171,699 rainbow trout weighing 242,141 pounds in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. This total includes 749,296 nine inch fish weighing 234,468 pounds, and 422,403 three to five inch fish weighing 7,673 pounds.
  • BROWN TROUT are brown to tan on the back and silvery on the lower sides and belly. They have black spots on the top and sides of the head and body and red spots scattered on the sides. These fish also like cool free flowing waters. Brown trout can grow as large as 40 pounds. Dale Hollow NFH distributed 295,981 brown trout weighing 31,537 pounds in FY 2016. This total includes 229,874 six to eight inch fish weighing 26,338 pounds, and 66,107 three to six inch fish weighing 5,199 pounds.
  • LAKE TROUT have small, light, irregular spots on a background varying from silvery or light green to dark green, brown, or black. They like cold waters, usually deep lakes or reservoirs, where they can find colder, well oxygenated water even in warm weather. Lake trout have been known to grow larger than 100 pounds. Dale Hollow NFH distributed 232,717 lake trout weighing 12,442 pounds in FY 2016. All of these fish were six inches in length.
  • BROOK TROUT can be found in small streams, creeks, lakes, and spring-fed ponds. They prefer cool, clear water and are sensitive to poor water quality. This fish is confined to higher elevations throughout the southern portion of its range and is the only salmonid native to Tennessee. Brook trout are green to slate gray in basic coloration with a marbled pattern of lighter shades across the back, extending to the dorsal fin. The body has pale spots and a few red spots ringed by pale areas. The dorsal, adipose, and caudal fins have dark spots. Brook trout can reach a weight of 14 pounds but are generally much smaller. Dale Hollow NFH distributed 33,913 brook trout weighing 1,386 pounds in FY 2016. This total includes 2,911 nine to ten inch fish weighing 998 pounds and 31,002 three to four inch fish weighing 388 pounds. The number of brook trout stocked in FY 2016 was low because of the unavailability of disease-free eggs in FY 2015.
  • BARRENS TOPMINNOW is an extremely rare fish occurring in springs and spring influenced streams on the Barrens Plateau in south-central Tennessee. Breeding males have red spots on a green or blue body with yellow on the fins. Non-breeding males, females, and juveniles are pale brown with scattered dark spots on the sides. Dale Hollow NFH distributed 69 Barrens topminnows (2012 Year Class/Type Locale Population) to a stocking site located on private property in Warren County in FY 2016. One hundred twenty-three Barrens topminnows were transferred from the Tennessee Aquarium to Dale Hollow NFH in FY 2016. These fish (2015 Year Class/Elk River Population) are being held as an ark population.

Public Use Opportunities

Kids with stringers of trout.  Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

  • More than 40,000 visitors yearly.
  • Hatchery tours.
  • Off-site presentations.
  • Aquarium/visitor center.
  • Paved walking and exercise road.
  • Public fishing area.
  • Nature viewing.

Calendar of Events

  • June 10, 2017: Twentieth Annual Kids' Fishing Rodeo - held on Tennessee's Free Fishing Day.
  • July 13, 2017: Wilderness Day Camp.
  • August 2017: Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Event, exact date to be announced.
  • Yearround fishing in local waters.
  • April through October: Camping in adjacent Corps of Engineer Campground, reservations recommended.


Q: What kind of fish do you raise?

A: Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery is a coldwater fish hatchery which means that we raise fish that do best in water temperatures between 40 degrees and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldwater species currently in production at this facility are rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, and lake trout. The water being supplied to the hatchery to raise trout is too cold to raise Barrens topminnows. This species is raised in closed, indoor recirculation systems where water temperature can be controlled.

Q: How big are the fish when they are released?

A: The majority of rainbow trout reared at this facility are used for programs requiring continuous stocking of nine inch fish in waters which typically experience intense fishing pressure and little natural reproduction. A nine inch fish is considered large enough for anglers to keep. Waters with few predators and ample food supply are stocked with three to five inch fingerlings. This technique is very cost effective because large numbers of fish can be stocked without having to incur high feed costs. Nature grows the fish to a harvestable size.

Lake trout are stocked at a size of six inches. These fish are stocked into reservoirs having conditions conducive to good growth and survival.

Brown trout are managed by stocking tailwaters that will support small fish with three to six inch fingerlings. Waters which have proved not to generate high survivability when stocked with smaller fish, receive stockings of six to eight inch brown trout. Nature grows these fish to a harvestable size.

Barrens topminnows only grow to about four inches in length. The fish grown-out at Dale Hollow NFH average two inches in length when they are stocked into the wild.

Q: Where do you stock the fish?

A: All of the brown trout, lake trout, and brook trout and most of the rainbow trout reared at Dale Hollow NFH are stocked in and below U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) impoundments in Tennessee.

Fingerling rainbow trout are supplied to the state of Georgia. These fish are transferred to state and federal hatcheries where they are grown to a harvestable size and are subsequently stocked in and below Corps and TVA impoundments in Georgia.

Harvestable size rainbow trout are stocked in the tailwater of Lewis Smith Reservoir in Alabama in return for Gulf Coast striped bass fry and eggs which are utilized by federal warmwater hatcheries in an ongoing Gulf Coast striped bass restoration effort.

Harvestable size rainbow trout are stocked into non-mitigation waters under a cooperative agreement with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. This program provides recreational fishing opportunities at Ft. Campbell, the Veterans Administration hospital in Murfreesboro, Calderwood and Chilhowee Reservoirs, and numerous winter trout fishing events held throughout middle and west Tennessee.

Barrens topminnows are stocked into springs and spring influenced streams in south-central Tennessee. Most of these stocking locations are located on private land.

Q: How do you get the eggs from the fish?

A: Trout spawning operations are not conducted at the hatchery. Fertilized eggs are received from other hatcheries by overnight mail in special egg shipping cartons and are placed into hatching jars. Once the eggs hatch, the sac fry are placed into indoor concrete tanks. After the larval fish absorb the yolk sac and are ready to begin feeding, the fish are weaned onto a commercial trout diet.

Rainbow trout eggs are generally available from August through the first of April. Brown and lake trout eggs are only available from the middle of October to the end of December. Brook trout eggs are available from the middle of December to the end of January.

Q: Stocking trout is not “natural” is it?

A: Stocking non-native species of trout is not “natural” but neither are dams. Dams perform critical functions such as flood control and hydro-electric power generation, but there is a down side to dams. Construction of a dam, regardless of its type, alters the entire river ecosystem.

Dams often produce large, deep reservoirs in which the water stratifies into thermal layers
during the summer. The water released downstream into the tailwater comes from a deep, cold layer. This newly created coldwater habitat does not provide conditions necessary for populations of native warmwater fish to be self-sustaining. Trout stocking is carried out in order to utilize the available coldwater habitat and to “mitigate” for the impacts that these water development projects have on the respective river ecosystems.

Q: Are the states involved with fishery mitigation?

A: Southeastern state natural resource agencies make most of the management decisions regarding the various coldwater tailwater and reservoir fisheries, operate hatcheries that rear additional trout to meet mitigation needs, and assist the federal hatcheries with fish distribution.

aerial  Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

Last updated: June 20, 2020