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A small black and grey fish on a ruler.
Information icon A nine inch lake sturgeon ready to be stocked in the Tennessee River. Photo by Daniel Schwarz, USFWS.

Our fish

Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery is charged with restoring threatened, endangered, at-risk and recreational fish species to achieve self-sustaining populations in the wild and for stocking recreational fish on national wildlife refuges. Learn more about some of the species of fish we raise:


A man holding a large fish with a long snout-like nose.
Biological technician Matt Peay holding a paddlefish caught on the Bouie River. Photo by Daniel Schwarz, USFWS.

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 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.

All of the paddlefish are tagged with coded wire tags. 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.

Lake sturgeon

A man in yellow rain gear and a personal floatation device holding a very large fish on a boat.
Fish biologist Daniel Schwarz holding lake sturgeon caught on the Tennessee River. Photo by USFWS.

In western Tennessee, the lake sturgeon populations have been reduced to less than 1% of their original numbers due to overfishing and habitat alteration. In 1998 the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and other partners, began a long-term restoration program to establish a self-sustaining population of lake sturgeon in Tennessee. The partnership became known as the Tennessee Lake Sturgeon Working Group. The Pvt. John Allen NFH plays an important role in rearing lake sturgeon that are hatched from Wisconsin and then distributed to multiple hatcheries until they reach stocking size.

Alligator gar

The hatchery serves as the Service’s lead for restoring alligator gar throughout the southeastern United States. Hatchery personnel collect and spawn alligator gar brood from the wild, and the progeny are used to support stocking efforts in Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois. Other efforts include 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.

A man wearing waders hunched over a long prehistoric-looking fish.
Project Leader Ricky Campbell injecting alligator gar broodstock with LHRH. Photo by Daniel Schwarz, USFWS.

Striped bass

Dozens of small grey and white fish with stripes along their sides.
Striped bass taken from hatchery ponds. Photo by Daniel Schwarz, USFWS.

This hatchery is a part of a major nations program to restore striped bass (also known as rockfish). This hatchery produces an average of 320,000 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.

In 1987, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a cooperative agreement to restore striped bass in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River basin. The Service is responsible for the restoration of this species under the Gulf States Marine Fisheries compact and the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Agreement. To assist in restoration of Gulf Coast striped bass to their historical range, the hatchery stocks hatchery reared fish in the ACF river system. 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 throughout their historical range.


Since the construction of the Tenn-Tom waterway in the 1970s and early 1980s, populations of the Gulf Coast strain walleye were in a drastic decline due to a substantial loss of appropriate spawning habitat. Currently there are only a few select areas along the river that provide habitat for natural reproduction. This species is extremely dependent on water flow and temperature to spawn, two requirements that are significantly altered when the Tenn-Tom waterway was constructed. Pvt. John Allen NFH and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks have been stocking Gulf Coast walleye in this system for 10 years, showing some rebound in population size. The current population derives primarily from hatchery reared fish and not from wild populations, which confirms the importance of these stocking efforts.

A greenish-grey fish with large round eyes in a dip net.
Gulf Coast Walleye stocked in Lake Lamar Bruce, Mississippi. Photo by Daniel Schwarz, USFWS.

Largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish and channel catfish

About a dozen military veterans pose for a picture in front of their catch which includes several fish.
Local military veterans having a good day of fishing at the hatchery. Photo by Daniel Schwarz, USFWS.

Connecting people with nature is an important role of the Service . Studies suggest that when children are exposed to the outdoors they are less stressed, gain confidence and learn important social skills. Recreational fishing is one opportunity that allows the public to interact with the outdoors. Pvt. John Allen NFH has worked with many partners on national wildlife refuges, national forests and tribal lands to promote recreational fishing events and create quality public fishing areas.

Yazoo darter

The Yazoo darter is a range-restrictive fish found in the Upper Yazoo river basin. It was listed as globally imperiled by the Nature Conservancy in 2013. It is also listed as a Tier 1 species of greatest conservation need in the Upper East Gulf Coastal Plain Ecoregion by Mississippi Natural Heritage Program. There may soon be a need to augment the population by performing reintroductions into other suitable habitat. Because of these problems, propagation protocols need to be developed for this species. In 2017 the hatchery was successfully able to spawn three males and 12 females to produce 100 progeny.

A small, brightly colored fish with striations on all of it's fins.
Yazoo darter collected in the Yocona River Basin. Photo by Matt Wagner, MDWFP.

Piebald madtom

A slick looking black and brown sucker fish in a net.
Piebald madtom collected during 2016 sampling. Photo by Matt Wagner, MDWFP.

In 2004, scientists separated the piebald madtom and the northern madtom into separate species. The piebald’s range includes eastern tributaries of the Mississippi River in west Tennessee and Mississippi. Due to ongoing decline in its abundance and habitat, the hatchery will develop propagation protocols for this species if the need arises to reintroduce this species into historical watersheds.

Pearl darter

The Pearl Darter was once found in the Pearl and Pascagoula River drainages in Mississippi. Due to habitat lost the Pearl Darter is now believed to be extirpated from the entire Pearl River System. It has not been collect in this system since 1973. Remaining population of Pearl Darters in the Pascagoula River system are going to be used to develop propagation protocols at the Hatchery. Once more research on the pearl darter’s life history, genetics and habitat preference is completed we hope that we can one day reintroduce this species back into the Pearl River System.

A small brown and white fish in an aquarium.
Pearl darter. Photo by Conservation Fisheries Inc.

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