Orangeburg is a warm-water fish hatchery. Fish are reared in earthen ponds and the water temperature ranges from 60 to 85˚F. The hatchery produces a variety of freshwater fish and invertebrates to include: striped bass, redbreast sunfish, American shad, lake sturgeon, and Carolina heelsplitter mussels. Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery stocks fish annually in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and coastal streams across the Southeast region of the United States.
How We Do It
The hatchery operates both indoor and outdoor fish production facilities. The lake sturgeon, American shad, and Carolina heelsplitter mussels are raised in indoor facilities, while the striped bass and redbreast sunfish are raised outside in earthen ponds.
Before stocking ponds with fish, they are filled with water and organic and inorganic fertilizers are added. Fertilization increases the natural food production, which is vital for fish less than 1” in size.
Number of Fish in a Rearing Pond
The number of fish stocked into a rearing pond is determined by the size of the pond. Striped bass are stocked at a rate of 100,000 to 150,000 per surface acre of water. Redbreast and bluegill sunfish broodstock (mature fish that lay eggs) are stocked at a rate of 50 to 60 pairs per surface acre. Ponds at the hatchery range in size from 0.5 to 1.5 surface acres.
Size of Fish
Striped bass are stocked into the hatchery ponds when they are less than 10 days old and less than 1 inch in length and remain in ponds until they reach a size of 2” to 12” depending on stocking requirements. Fish such as redbreast sunfish are produced from broodstock that are placed in a pond and allowed to reproduce naturally. They are harvested at an average size of 3”.
While in the ponds, fish feed on naturally occurring organisms (phytoplankton and zooplankton.) Commercially prepared fish foods are fed to them by hatchery workers 3 or more times a day. The size and type of fish determine how much they are fed.
Fish are harvested from ponds by lowering the water level and concentrating the fish into a concrete basin (kettle) that is part of the pond. A seine (a long net) is then used to catch and move fish to a tank containing oxygenated water.
Fish are hauled to rivers and/or lakes in a specially designed tank (called a distribution tank) that contains water and a supply of oxygen. The number of fish that can be hauled is determined by the size and distance to the release site. On average 50,000 to 100,000 are hauled per trip.