Who We Are
Edenton National Fish Hatchery (NFH), operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has been producing fish for public use and restoration for well over a century. Established in 1898, the 63 acre hatchery is one of the oldest, built in the historic port town of Edenton, North Carolina at the head of the Albemarle Sound, 90 miles southwest of Norfolk, Virginia.
Edenton National Fish Hatchery is one of fourteen hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Southeast Region. These hatcheries serve a vital role in the management of our fishery resources.
What We Do
This is a National Fish Hatchery which is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and is supported by your Federal tax dollars. Fish raised on Federal hatcheries are stocked in public waters to support Federal fishery responsibilities mandated by law. These include fish for restoration where, for example, man-made dams have altered a stream’s natural reproductive capability; to recover threatened or endangered populations; to restore interjurisdictional fish populations, or to support depleted recreational fish populations in Federal and state waters.
Edenton maintains the capability to quickly respond and restore fish populations decimated by man-made or natural disasters. In recent years, Edenton has produced largemouth bass and bluegill to recover waters devastated by hurricanes.
How We Do It
Edenton NFH is a warmwater hatchery. This means the fish raised here do best in water temperatures above 65 degrees.
For the production of Atlantic striped bass, personnel from Edenton NFH and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission collect adult “broodfish” from the wild during spawning runs. These adults are transported to Edenton National Fish Hatchery where they are monitored for egg maturation. They spawn naturally in circular tanks where the eggs are collected for hatching. The five-day-old fry are collected and transferred to ponds for grow-out.
The rearing ponds are fertilized to encourage the growth of tiny microorganisms on which the young fry feed until they reach fingerling size of about one to three inches. Most hatcheries stock their striped bass at this size. Edenton on the other hand, grades them to uniform sizes, and re-stocks ponds for what is called “Phase-II growout”. These fish are grown to around eight inches in length and released in late fall. While this method is more intensive, it yields much greater survival due to reduced predation and better (cooler) water temperatures at stocking.
The ponds where the fish are reared are specially constructed with a concrete catch basin or “kettle” in front of the drain. When the fish are ready to be transferred, various size screens can be inserted in the kettle to allow the water, but not the fish, to drain out. The fish collect here and can be removed with nets when the pond is nearly empty. Fish are weighed and counted and then loaded onto specially designed distribution trucks with oxygen for transport to stocking sites.
Once at the stocking site, hatchery biologists pump water from the river or lake into the tanks on the distribution truck for a period of 30 minutes to an hour or more. This is to acclimate the fish to the water in terms of temperature and water chemistry (pH, salinity, etc). Once released, they are not shocked by a sudden change of water, and disperse into the receiving waters in good health.
American shad and River Herring production is somewhat different. Wild broodfish are collected from the rivers and brought to Edenton where tissue samples are taken for genetic analysis and tracking. The fish spawn in circular tanks at the hatchery, and the eggs are hatched in special incubation jars. The fry are released into North Carolina rivers.
FAX: (252) 482-2106
About our Fish
Fish Species and Capability
Restoration of interjurisdictional Atlantic striped bass
Because “interjurisdictional” fish move across local, state, and sometimes national boundaries, concern for their well-being is a major activity for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservation measures are necessary in order to maintain healthy populations of these fish in our public waters. Edenton NFH produces more than 200,000 “Phase-II” (large) striped bass for interjurisdictional restoration each year. Fish that were raised and tagged at Edenton have been caught from Cape Hatteras to New England.
Restoration of interjurisdictional American shad
American shad is an important food and gamefish. Landings in the late 1950s exceeded 5,000 metric tons, and this number dwindled to near zero in 2005. Edenton is currently focusing restoration efforts for American shad to stock one million fry per year into the Neuse River. In future years, other river systems will likely be enhanced with hatchery reared shad.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I purchase a fishing license?
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service does not issue fishing licenses. To review North Carolina fishing regulations and to purchase a license, please visit the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's website.
Why do we need federal hatcheries and who pays for them?
This is a national fish hatchery which is supported by tax dollars. Fish raised on Federal hatcheries are stocked in public waters to support Federal fishery responsibilities mandated by law. These include fish for restoration where, for example, man-made dams have altered a stream’s natural reproductive capability; or to restore threatened or endangered populations. Fish are also used to support recreational fishing programs in Federal and state waters.
What kind of fish do you raise?
Edenton NFH is a warmwater hatchery which means we raise fish that do best in water temperature above 65 degrees. The Atlantic Striped Bass, American Shad, and Blue Back River Herring are regular tenants of Edenton NFH, but other species occasionally become the focus of various restoration projects.
Where do you stock your fish?
Our primary area of focus is the rivers and streams of North Carolina but Edenton NFH also provides fish for the states of South Carolina and Virginia to aid in their restoration efforts.
How do you get the eggs from the fish?
Personnel from Edenton NFH and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission collect adult “broodfish” from the wild during spawning runs. These adults are transported to Edenton NFH where they are monitored for egg maturation. They spawn naturally in circular tanks and the eggs are hatched in special incubation jars. Fry are either stocked into receiving waters or placed in grow-out ponds for later stocking at a larger size.
Do you provide fish to private individuals?
This was once a function of the National Fish Hatchery system. “Farm pond” stocking is no longer considered a Federal responsibility, and fish are no longer provided to individuals. All the fish raised at this facility are stocked into public waters.
Do you give tours of the hatchery?
Large groups, as well as small, are given tours by station personnel, if arrangements are made in advance. Contact the Hatchery Office at 252-482-4118 for more details and to learn about a variety of exciting volunteer opportunities.
Last updated: January 25, 2017