What We Do
At Norfork National Fish Hatchery, our main objective is mitigation stocking. In our case, this means stocking fish into the cold tailwaters created by dams. The tailwaters consist of an entirely different environment than the natural river did prior to dam construction. These tailwaters had major effects on the native fishery, so we stock trout in these areas to make up for that fact. Geographically, this includes the tailwaters of Norfork, Bull Shoals, and Beaver dams in Arkansas. We also stock trout below Tenkiller dam in Oklahoma. The trout provide fantastic fishing opportunities and have affected the jobs, culture, and tourism in many of the areas that we stock.
The process begins when we receive a shipment of eggs from a brood hatchery. From there, it requires a repetitive process of feeding, monitoring growth, and maintaining fish densities that are low for healthy fish and quick growth. We are constantly taking samples of raceways or moving fish from one tank to another to give them more room. Diseases appear occasionally as well, so we do our best to treat them and keep survival as high as we can. Once fish reach stocking size, they are released into the tailwaters (Rainbow trout 11in., Brown and Cutthroat trout 9in.) On average, we can expect about one-half inch of growth per month, but the time elapsed between hatching to stocking varies depending on feed rates and overall fish health.That is not all we do though. We also propagate mussel species, grow milkweed for monarch butterflies, and educate the public through school tours and special events.
Management and Conservation
The next time you go fishing, you might just catch a fish that was raised at Norfork NFH. Since 1871, National Fish Hatcheries have been responding to conservation challenges affecting America’s fish and other aquatic species. Producing fish continues to be an irreplaceable tool in managing or restoring fisheries along with habitat conservation. In doing so, we help provide recreation opportunities to America’s 34 million anglers who spend $36 billion annually in pursuit of their favored pastime.
Norfork NFH produces 500,000lbs of rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and brown trout annually. The fish are stocked annually in rivers across the Southeastern Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).
In addition to raising trout, this hatchery also works in a nationwide effort in preserving threatened and endangered mussels. An estimated 70% of North America’s freshwater mussel species are extinct or endangered.
At the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, our main service is mitigation stocking. We stock trout in the tailwaters of the White and North Fork Rivers. We do this to provide a fishery within the colder waters of the tailwaters. Most of our stocking locations are public boat ramps, so if you see us out and about, feel free to watch. We stock 11" rainbow trout (average length) year-round, and we also stock 9" brown and cutthroat trout (average length). We also deliver fish to Oklahoma, as well as raise 6 and 8 inch fish for the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas. The Norfork National Fish Hatchery provides a fun experience for people of all ages and influences the areas economy substantially.
Our Projects and Research
One of the projects we are working on at the moment are mussel propagation for the Snuffbox (Epioblasma triquetra) and Rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrica). These mussels became listed do to over harvesting and poor water quality. Now that habitats have been reestablished and they are no longer being harvested increasing their population is the main focus. To accomplish this, facilities like Norfork NFH have been propagating them in controlled and protected environments until they are out of their more vulnerable juvenile stages.