Who We Are
Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery is one of many hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the southeast. These hatcheries serve a vital role in the management of our fishery resources. The Fish and Wildlife Service also manages over 500 national wildlife refuges across the country. As the Nation’s primary steward of fish and wildlife resources, the Service provides leadership in wildlife and habitat protection; fish and wildlife research; and in the conservation and protection of migratory birds, fishes, marine mammals, and threatened and endangered species.
The establishment of this hatchery, one of the oldest in the country, can be credited to the efforts of Congressman “Private” John Allen, "Private" being the humble title he used in reference to himself. On February 20, 1901, before the U.S. House of Representatives, the Congressman delivered an eloquent speech, half-seriously, proposing the establishment of a Federal fish hatchery in Tupelo. He stated, in part, “thousands and millions of unborn fish are clamoring to this Congress today for an opportunity to be hatched at the Tupelo hatchery.” In 1982, the hatchery was renamed in honor of this historic Mississippi legislator.
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, habitat degradation has altered a stream’s natural reproductive capability; to recover threatened or endangered populations; to preclude listing of certain species under the Endangered Species Act; to restore interjurisdictional fish populations, or to support depleted recreational fish populations in Federal and state waters.
This hatchery is called a warm water hatchery because the species of fish raised here do best in the summer water temperatures that range between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The hatchery has 15 ponds and raises about 5 million fish every year! Fish that are important to the fishery resources of Mississippi, the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley and the Gulf Coast are raised here and stocked throughout the region in cooperation with state game and fish agencies.
For a variety of reasons, many species of fish have shown a significant decline in population over the past 20 to 30 years. Sport and commercial anglers alike are experiencing dwindling catches of striped bass, sturgeon, shad, and red drum along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. These fish species are estuarine (they live in saltwater) or anadromous (return once a year to spawn in fresh water.) While all the reasons for this decline are not entirely known, it is agreed that a combination including loss of habitat, construction of dams, dredging of rivers, over fishing, and various forms of pollution are all contributing and interwoven factors.
Because their ranges transcend local, state, and in some cases, 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. National fish hatcheries such as Private John Allen are helping to achieve these objectives by restoring native fish populations for all to enjoy.
How We Do It
Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery serves as one of the primary paddlefish restoration sites in the southeast. Native paddlefish are collected from Mississippi and the surrounding states. This unique species must be spawned artificially by surgically removing eggs from the females. Great care is taken to return these fish to the wild.
Young paddlefish resemble tadpoles for several weeks after hatching. The fish must be fed natural food items which are harvested from hatchery ponds. After 90 days the fish are large enough to be released into the wild.
Some of these fish are tagged before they are released. When and if the fish are caught again, biologists can find out when and where they were released and how far they have traveled. All this information helps us learn more about the paddlefish’s life history.
This hatchery is a part of a major nations program to restore striped bass (also called rockfish). This hatchery produces up to 500,000 striped bass every year! Some of these striped bass are stocked when they have reached a length of two inches, others are kept for a longer period of time and fed a special diet until they grow to be about four to six inches, and then they are stocked in waters throughout the region.
The Private John Allen NFH serves as the Agency lead in efforts pertaining to the restoration of alligator gar throughout the Southeast United States. Hatchery personnel collect and spawn alligator gar brood from the wild with the resulting progeny being used to support stocking efforts in the states of Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois. Other efforts being undertaken at this facility involves telemetry studies aimed at determining seasonal movements, preferred habitat usage and foraging behaviors of both juvenile and adult alligator gar. Habitat characterizations that result from these studies will be used to guide habitat restoration efforts in other areas.
The Pvt. John Allen NFH works with many state and federal partners in delivering on the ground habitat restoration actions. The most recent being the Mackey Creek Gulf Coast Walleye Habitat Restoration Project. The hatchery is actively engaged in working with the Noxubee NWR in restoring paddlefish and Gulf Coast walleye habitats along Oktoc Creek in Noxubee County, MS.
This hatchery also plays an important role in monitoring, eradicating and assessing the spread of aquatic nuisance species throughout the Southeast Region. Hatchery personnel are currently engaged in monitoring the spread and assessing the repopulation of northern snakehead fish in the Piney Creek basin of Arkansas and monitoring the spread of Asian carp on National Wildlife Refuges throughout the State of Mississippi.
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Current programs involve the restoration of interjurisdictional fishes (paddlefish, sturgeon and alligator gar); recovery of endangered and threatened species; restoration of Gulf Coast Striped Bass populations; restoration of gulf coast walleye in the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to achieve self-sustaining populations and fishery management and stocking recreational fish on national wildlife refuges.200,000 Phase I (one-two inch) Gulf Coast Striped Bass; 30,000 Phase II (six-eight inch) Gulf Coast Striped Bass; 40,000 paddlefish; 150,000 walleye; approximately 500,000 largemouth bass and/or bluegill as needed for National Wildlife Refuge programs; 4,000 lake sturgeon.
Where can I purchase a fishing license?
To review Mississippi fishing regulations and to purchase a license, please contact the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks at 1-800-546-4868 or visit them online at http://home.mdwfp.com/License/
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service does not issue fishing licenses.
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, habitat degradation has 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.
Can we visit the historic Hatchery Manager’s House?
We apologize for the inconvenience but the house is officially closed for tours due to major renovations being conducted. However, the house is scheduled to reopen sometime during the Spring of 2012. This two story Victorian home was constructed in 1904 and served as the residence for the hatchery manager until the 1980s. Much of Tupelo’s social life in the early 1900s took place around this facility. The residence was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The grounds surrounding the home hold a variety of native plants, many of which are the “antique” variety donated as cuttings from plants handed down through the generations. These areas make up our Backyard Habitats which are designed to attract a variety of birds, insects, and other wildlife.
How big do alligator gar get and what do they eat?
Alligator gar can reach lengths up to 10 feet long and weigh over 300 pounds. The female brood fish at this station are all in excess of 130 pounds. The joint behind the gar’s skull allows it to make nodding head movements much like an alligator. This allows the fish to eat large prey such as small mammals and large fish up to five pounds. Adult alligator gar can eat a whole beef heart at a time, but they need times of fasting. The largest gar taken by an angler weighed 279 pounds and was nearly 10 feet long.
Do we sell fish?
No fish were ever sold from this facility. In past years the hatchery partnered with the USDA in providing stockable fingerlings through the auspices of the Farm Pond Program. Although once a primary role of the National Fish Hatchery System, the farm pond program is no longer a responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1989, the farm pond program was officially ended, and hatchery production was shifted more to threatened/endangered species and the restoration of fisheries population in public waters. A list is available at the hatchery of local and statewide fish farmers that can provide fish for private ponds.
What kind of fish do we raise?
Pvt. John Allen National Fish Hatchery raises nine species of fish. This includes paddlefish, alligator gar, striped bass, walleye, largemouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill bream, channel catfish, and lake sturgeon. The paddlefish and alligator gar are raised to restore depleted populations in the Lower Mississippi River Basin. The striped bass are raised as part of the Gulf Coast Striped Bass Recovery Plan. The walleye are raised for restoration stocking throughout their historic ranges in Alabama and Mississippi. The largemouth bass, bluegilll, redear sunfish, and channel catfish are raised to enhance recreational fishing on national wildlife refuges as needed. The lake sturgeon are raised for restoration purposes on the upper Tennessee River in Tennessee.
How do we capture large brood fish such as paddlefish and alligator gar?
These large fish are captured by using 150 ft. and 300 ft. gill nets. The nets are set free-floating in the water and capture any fish that is unable to swim through the six inch mesh. The nets are set late in the evening and checked on the hour throughout the night to ensure the safety of these large creatures. They are then transported in specially designed circular tanks.
Do you give tours of the hatchery?Group tours by station personnel are available if arrangements are made in advance. Contact the Hatchery Office at 662-842-1341 for more details and to learn about a variety of exciting volunteer opportunities.
(2010 figures to be released soon)
American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009: