How Far Would You Go To Raise a Mussel?
BY NATHAN ECKERT, GENOA NFH
This might sound like a philosophical question, but can I mean it literally? How far, how many miles, would you be willing to travel to ensure production of one freshwater mussel species for a year? For some species the answer is as short as 50 miles, for others 100 or even 300, but we’ve developed a partnership at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) that requires a 650 mile drive, each way.
The North Platte State Fish Hatchery in North Platte, Nebraska has access to two species of fish that make mussel propagation much easier at Genoa NFH. The fresh-water drum and flathead catfish are two species that are difficult to collect in significant numbers and appropriate sizes around Genoa. Fortunately, the North Platte SFH has access to both species nearby due to their unique water supply. For the last several years we’ve sent samples of both species to our fish health lab to certify that they are not carrying any diseases, and once they pass the inspection we take the long drive out to western Nebraska to pick up the fish and bring them home. Last fall we made the run again, collecting 250 flathead catfish and 1,000 freshwater drum.
While this is a very long distance to travel for host fish, the fish received are always of a high quality and handle captivity well because they’ve already spent time in a hatchery. The biggest bonus is that by getting both species of fish on the trip we can propagate six different mussel species each year (Pistolgrip, Butterfly, Pink Heelsplitter, Fragile Papershell, Deertoe and Fawnsfoot). That would bring the average mileage per species down to just over 100 miles each way, a much more reasonable number. We also have interest in propagating two additional endangered species in the future which both utilize the freshwater drum. Having this partnership in place now ensures that we’ll be ready if we ever get in the business of raising the Scaleshell or Fat Pocketbook.
A big "THANK YOU" goes out to our partners in Nebraska for being willing to help us improve mussel propagation at Genoa NFH!