Who We Are:
Over a century ago, it was recognized that conservation measures were necessary to maintain good fishing in our public waters. Fishing has probably always been American's leading form of outdoor recreation. The Welaka National Fish Hatchery is endeavoring to preserve this tradition for present as well as future generations of Americans.
Welaka is a warmwater hatchery. That is, the species of fish raised here do best in summer water temperatures that reach 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. In it's 41 ponds, the facility raises between 4.5 to 5 million fish annually. Species vital to the fishery resources of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the coastal United States are raised here and stocked in cooperation with the various State game and fish agencies.
What We Do:
The Welaka National Fish Hatchery was built in 1926 and originally operated by the State of Florida. In 1938 the hatchery was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ponds are operated at two locations. Those ponds at headquarters, near the aquarium, are called the Welaka Unit, and a second group of ponds about three miles south of headquarters is called the Beecher Unit. The Beecher Unit is named for the spring that serves as the water supply. Beecher Spring has a flow of 4,000 gallons per minute at a constant temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Water for the Welaka Unit comes from a well 423 feet deep and also from the St. Johns River.
How We Do It:
To elaborate on one species, the Welaka National Fish hatchery is part of a major national emphasis on restoring the Gulf Coast Striped Bass (also called rockfish).
Adult stripers, captured from our rivers and reared at the hatchery, provide the eggs for the hatchery program. Once the eggs and milt (sperm) are taken, the adults taken from the wild are returned to their native waters.
The fertilized eggs are incubated, and the larval fry that hatch from the eggs are cultured artificially. Newborn fish have their own food supply in an attached yolk sac. After this source is absorbed, the tiny fish are transferred to hatchery rearing ponds where they feed on a natural diet of microscopic organisms. Young striped bass are particularly vulnerable to pollution, starvation, and predators during these stages and in the wild, untold numbers are lost. However, on the hatchery the fish are protected and experience the best possible conditions for surviving.
After 25 to 40 days, these fish grow to an average length of 2 inches and some are stocked at this size. Others are held and fed scientifically formulated diets to attain maximum growth. By the fall, these fish have reached a size of 6 to 8 inches and are ready for stocking. These larger fish are stocked into special areas of selected river systems and tributaries from which they originated. Fishery managers expect that these supplemental stockings will help restore depleted striped bass populations. A number of fish are tagged, enabling biologists to evaluate the success of the stocking programs.
Gulf Coast Striped Bass
7,000,000 fry; 750,000 Phase I fingerlings; 100,000 Phase II sub-adults.
Atlantic Coast Striped Bass
2,000,000 fry; 400,000 Phase 1 fingerlings.
2010 details to be added soon
American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009: