Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery
Mountain-Prairie Region
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Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery

8077 Hatchery Road | Hotchkiss, CO 81419
Phone: 970-872-3170 | Email: hotchkiss@fws.gov | Hatchery Hours: 7:30am - 4:00pm daily

About the Hatchery

Current Issues | Hotchkiss Distribution | Hotchkiss Species & Production | Public Information | Open / Close All

A aerial view of the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

A aerial view of the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

About Us

Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Hatchery System. The National Fish Hatchery System (NFHS) is comprised of 70 Fish Hatcheries, 7 Fish Technology Centers, and 9 Fish Health Centers nationwide. The NFHS has a unique responsibility in helping restore native aquatic populations, mitigate for fisheries lost as a result of federal water projects, provide fish to benefit Tribes and the National Wildlife Refuges, and to recover species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Hotchkiss NFH is located about 20 miles east of Delta, CO near the town of Hotchkiss and was established in 1967 as part of the Colorado River Storage Project Act. Located on 58 acres along the banks of the North Fork of the Gunnison River, the hatchery's cold, clean water supply comes from the adjacent Tommy Dowell Spring. Hotchkiss NFH facilities include 24 inside nursery tanks, 40 concrete raceways, and 2 earthen ponds use for effluent treatment and sedimentation.

Current Issues »

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Deformed Brook Trout suffering from Whirling Disease. This image is scanned from the collection of Dr. Thomas L. Wellborn, Jr. The collection was donated to the US Fish & Wildlife Service in 1999.

In recent years, the spread of whirling disease (WD) has become a serious management issue for hatcheries rearing trout. WD is a microscopic parasite that uses trout as part of its life cycle. In the early stages of its life cycle, the parasite bores into a young trout’s spinal column and makes it way to the young trout’s head, causing neurological problems. The trout's nervous system then becomes inhibited and the fish displays outer symptoms, such as a darken tail and erratic swimming. Most fish with WD will have a much shortened life span, resulting in reduced trout populations. There are no known health risks for humans who eat WD infected trout.

Hotchkiss NFH is one of the few public fish hatcheries in western Colorado to be certified WD-free. Due to its disease-free status, the hatchery is now assisting the Colorado Division of Wildlife by stocking disease-free trout in lakes, streams, and reservoirs in western Colorado. In addition, Hotchkiss has begun to successfully raise WD resistant strains of trout to be used in heavily infected waters. These trout bolster the declining trout populations and aide in sustaining trout fishing opportunities.

Hotchkiss Distribution »

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Fish stocking truck. Credit: USFWS.

Fish stocking truck. Credit: USFWS.

When the fish are ready for stocking, they are pumped by mechanical loader into a distribution truck. The water in the truck’s tank when kept cool and well supplied with oxygen can hold large numbers of trout for many hours.

Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery has two large capacity fish transportation trucks that are primarily used to distribute our trout to the destination. These two trucks are capable of holding 15,000 to 20,000 8-10 inch trout each. The combined life support system of these two trucks, which allows transportation of large numbers and weight of fish over long distances, consists of 21 aerators and two liquid-oxygen bottles weighing 600 lbs. each.

These units are used for stocking large reservoirs with trout throughout western Colorado and northern New Mexico and are a very cost-effective and efficient method of transporting trout. These along with smaller size stocking truck comprise the distribution fleet for Hotchkiss NFH and allow us to efficiently and safely transport our annual distribution of over 750,000 trout.

Hotchkiss Species & Production »

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Species & Production

Hotchkiss Species and Production: (Photos clockwise from left) Rainbow trout, Raceways, Measuring eggs through water displacement. Credit: USFWS.

Hotchkiss Species and Production: (Photos clockwise from left) Rainbow trout, Raceways, Measuring eggs through water displacement. Credit: USFWS.

Currently the hatchery produces trout to fill needs for federal water developments projects throughout Western Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

Two years before actual stocking, fish management biologists advise the manager of the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery of the size and number of rainbow trout that are needed to stock each reservoir. Several factors are used to determine these needs: time of year, size of the reservoir, anticipated angler use; and available food supplies. The Hatchery Manager then develops a program for raising fish to stock in each reservoir.

Rainbow trout eggs are received for hatching at Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery from various sources throughout the United States. After the eggs hatch, the young fish are placed into concrete tanks in the hatchery building and fed special trout diets. Feeding is first done manually, and then automatic feeders take over. When the fish are 1-1/2 to 2 inches in length, they are moved to outside raceways where they grow to the proper size for stocking.

In fiscal year 2013, Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery produced and distributed over 650 thousand trout weighing over 145 thousand pounds to 18 different water locations in Colorado and New Mexico. Over 200,000 angler days of recreational fishing in Colorado and New Mexico and an economic value of over $10 million dollars are a result of the stocking efforts.

Public Information »

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  • Covered picnic area on Hotchkiss NFH grounds. Credit: USFWS.
  • Students from the local adult art classes come out and work on their art projects at Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery in Colorado. The ladies in this picture were working with pastels, drawing the crab apple trees in bloom. Credit: USFWS
  • Fly fishermen standing in the Gunnison River. Credit: USFWS.
  • Photo of a bird watcher at Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery.Credit: USFWS
  • Bird viewing area. Credit: USFWS
  • Picnic area. Credit: USFWS
  • Picnic area. Credit: USFWS

Hotchkiss NFH provides many exciting visitor opportunities, and supports local communities. Open to the public, Hotchkiss NFH welcomes visitors to the hatchery for a close up view of the fish production process. With over 7,500 visitors annually, the friendly dedicated staff will normally be available to answer any questions while you explore the Visitor Center (open 7:30am to 4:00pm daily) and raceways. Educational programs/tours are provided for the public and school groups during business hours when scheduled in advance. A short, wheelchair-accessible, self-guided tour is available at the hatchery as well.

Hotchkiss NFH operates with support from partners, including: Colorado Division of Wildlife, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and other Federal agencies and Service hatcheries. These many dedicated partners and volunteers help keep Hotchkiss NFH operating to bring recreational angling opportunities and healthy aquatic ecosystems to you, your family, and future generations.

Visitors also have a bounty of nearby recreational opportunities along the North Fork of the Gunnison River:

  • Hiking/nature trails
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Wildlife and bird watching
  • Photography

Relax and enjoy your lunch under one of the five covered picnic areas on the hatchery grounds, or test your wildlife knowledge while viewing the surrounding canyon areas using the Watchable Wildlife viewing area. So be sure to bring your binoculars for the wildlife viewing, such as juncos, hawks, eagles, waterfowl, elk, deer, raccoons, and fox.

The hatchery also participates in local public fishing festivities, as the Sponsor of the Annual Huck Finn Days Fishing Derby for Children in June. Families and friends are invited to join the hatchery staff, volunteers, and sponsors for this fun-filled fishing event. In addition, many local businesses, civic groups, and citizens participate and sponsor the Annual Huck Finn Days Fishing Derby.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: April 08, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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