On the return trip from the 2002 Texas Fish-In, my wife and I
stopped to stay a few days at Branson, Missouri. This was the
portion of the trip that I promised my wife would be her vacation.
While in Branson, I visited a fly-fishing store in the downtown
area. There I learned of the Shepard of the Hills Trout Hatchery
in Branson. Getting down on my knees, I pleaded with my wife to
let me do this story for FAOL. She relented and allowed me to
do more of my fly angling work. She even went with me to the
hatchery, just to make sure I didn't return to the fly fishing
store to buy that old South Bend cane fly rod that was priced
at $450. ~ SHM
Shepard of the Hills trout hatchery was opened in 1959, and has
raised trout ever since then, except between 1976 to 1980 when
it was being renovated. It is the newest hatchery in the
Missouri Department of Conservation. There are 5 hatcheries
run by the Missouri Department of Conservation, but only Shepard
of the Hills and one other hatchery have brood stock. Shepard
of the Hills hatches German Brown Trout, and two types of Rainbow
Trout. The German Brown Trout spawn in the autumn, and the Rainbows
are divided into two groups, one spawns in the spring and the
other in the autumn.
The brood stock (only Rainbows) are kept up to 6 years, and these
are released when the fish is past its prime for breeding purpose.
Most of the brood stock at Shepard of the Hills is fall spawning
Rainbows. The average size of a release brood trout is 8 pounds
or larger. Shepard of the Hill's releases 25% of the brood
stock every year. The brood stock population varies between
6,000 and 8,000 trout.
The water for the hatchery is supplied from the Table Rock Dam.
Shepard of the Hill Hatchery is located at the dam's base.
The water is drawn from 350 feet down (approximately 50 meters).
Temperatures vary from the lake between 40 to 52 degrees F
(4.4 to 11.1 degrees C). They also use well water, which
averages 58 degrees F (14.4 degrees C), with these two sources
they can control the temperature of the water in the hatchery.
The hatchery uses 17,500,000 gallons (70,000,000 liters) of
water daily. The water travels thru gas diffusion towers that
allow the water to move over several aluminum screens, breaking
up the water, adding oxygen and removing nitrogen. Water
temperature at the hatchery is on average 55 degrees F
(12.8 degrees C).
The food used is a commercial prepared mixture, which is sized
at the hatchery for the different stages at the fish growth.
The Shepard of the Hills hatchery can store 26 tons of trout
food, and uses 1,600 pounds daily. The cost for food to raise
one trout to release size (10 to 12 inches) is 60 cents.
Crude Protein...not less than 45%
Shepard of the Hills TROUT CHOW
Crude Fat...not less than 18%
Crude Fiber...not more than 3%
Ash...not more than 12%
Sodium...not more than 2%
Vitamin A...not less than 10,000 IU/KG
Vitamin D...not less than 500 IU/KG
Vitamin E...not less than 250 IU/KG
During the spawn, the brood stock is separated by sex, and the
females are checked for their state of readiness to spawn. They
are dipped from the run, and place in a large tub of spring water
to relax. When they are relaxed they are picked up by hand and
light pressure is exerted on their belly. If the female is ready
to spawn the eggs are easily released. This release is from 40
to 150 eggs, the eggs are checked for quality, if over-ripe eggs
are detected, the female is stripped of the eggs, and the eggs
are discarded. This helps the female from having to re-absorb
the eggs. Females that are ready to spawn are then placed in a
holding tank that has a mild anesthetic to help them relax. The
other females that are not ready are returned to the run, and
checked in another 5 days.
The anesthetized males are stripped of their milt, and the milt
can be stored in plastic bags that are inflated with oxygen and
stored on their sides in a refrigerator, so the milt is kept thin.
Milt can last for many days when refrigerated and properly stored.
Afterwards the males are returned to the run.
The females that are ready to spawn have the eggs removed by an
air-spawning method using a needle and oxygen is injected at 2
to 3 pound pressure. This method is less stressful on the female,
and the eggs are cleaner and are less damaged. Depending on size,
each female can supply 3,000 to 5,000 eggs. The eggs are collected
in a collecting pan and when the pan is filled the milt is added.
The mixture is stirred using a finger, although the old-timers
use to insist on mixing with a turkey feather.
After the mixing is done, the eggs are then transferred to a bucket
of water to harden. This water hardening takes about 45 minutes,
and allows the eggs to absorb water and become round and firm.
When that step is done, the eggs are sampled and weighted to
determine how many eggs there are per ounce. The eggs are
transferred to an Upwelling (Incubator) Jar. There the eggs
remain for the 28 days it takes for them to hatch, depending
on the water temperature. Two days before the eggs hatch
(Eye Up), they are transferred to a Sac Fry Tray.
In the sac fry tray, there is metal mesh to hold the eggs in
flowing water, this helps the hatched sac fry to break from
the eggs, and swim to the bottom of the tray. The water flows
over the mesh; helping get rid of the dead eggs. Shepard of
the Hills has a 90% success rate on hatched sac fry from eye up.
The sac fry remain in the sac fry tray for about two weeks, until
they have completely absorbed the entire sac. At which time they
become Swim Ups, and are transferred to the Swim Up tray.
In the Swim Up tray, the swim up's are at the beginning fed 12
times daily with the commercial food, ground to talcum powder size.
Later the feedings are reduced, and the amount of food increased.
Even with daily cleaning of the trays, and medication where needed,
2% to 5% of the swim ups die from various reasons. At three
inches they are moved outside.
Shepard of the Hills raises 800,000 trout for Taneycomo Lake annually.
(Taneycomo stands for TANEY County Missouri). Shepard of the Hill
also supplies 400,000 eggs and fingerlings to other hatcheries for
stocking in their areas.
Up Well Jars hold 150,000 trout eggs|
Sac Fry Trays hold 75,000 trout
Swim Up Trays hold 10,000 to 25,000 trout
4 to 5 inch pool holds 80,000 trout
7 to 8 inch pool holds 45,000 trout
10 inch pool holds 30,000 trout
Brown Trout spawn in the fall. Because Shepard of the Hills does
not carry Brown Trout brood stock, they must catch the Browns as
they do their spawning run, and raise them in 4 dirt runs, and a
dirt pond. (German Browns do not fare well in concrete runs or pools.)
They raise the German browns for prize trout releases.
Rainbows raised by the Missouri Department of Conservation came from
the McCloud River Station in California, and the Donaldson Rainbows
came from the Flaming Gorge, Utah. Breeding Donaldson females with
McCloud males created the Arlee strain that spawns in the spring.
The German Brown trout are also from the Flaming Gorge, Utah.
I was surprised at the amount of work and time that is required
to raise trout. The total hatchery layout is quite extensive.
The sad point is the news of 80% of newly release 10-12 inch
trout are caught and kept, within two weeks of release into
the water. But the 20% that survive past the two weeks are
still a higher success ratio, compared to natural spawn success
I wish to say thank you to the staff at the Shepard of the Hills
Trout Hatchery, for their help and cooperation. Special thank
you to Stephanie Goodwin who compiled an information packet for
my use in this article (greatly appreciated, and very needed).
Special thank you to Leah Eden, who gave me a personal tour of
the Hatchery facilities, her knowledge of the process and
answering tons of questions were of great help to me in
understanding the total picture on just how trout are raised.
A special thank you to my wife Kathy for helping me to do
this story. She had to drive across the top of Table Rock Dam
6 times for me to get an Arial picture of the trout hatchery
below the dam. ~ Steven H. McGarthwaite