Hometown Farmer - Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery
YANKTON, SD —
Just north of Sioux City, in Yankton, South Dakota, you’ll find a type of federally-funded farm where workers raise anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 animals at any one time.
"Generally, it's over a million fish," said Sam Stukel, a Fisheries Biologist at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery.
Yeah, you read that right.
More than one million fish will be raised at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery this year.
Stukel says the main mission at the hatchery is to raise two types of fish.
"This first fish, this is the endangered species, the pallid sturgeon," said Stukel, carefully lifting a sturgeon from a holding tank. "That's a muddy water fish from the big old muddy Missouri River."
Then there’s the paddlefish, maybe you can call it a spoonbill.
"People used to think they dug around in the mud with this big, long bill," said Stukel.
There are rainbow trout raised here, too, but they're just on the menu.
The trout are fed to those endangered sturgeon.
"The trout can't see the sturgeon coming and before they know it, they're right in the belly of that big predator," said Stukel.
But soybeans are served, too.
You can find them in the fish food.
“It's a great source of protein,” said Stukel. “It's more affordable than fish meal and it can replace up to half the fish meal or more."
Raising this many animals, 10,000 to 100,000 at any time, is a lot like raising any other land animal, from diets to densities.
"What's the maximum number of fish you can get in a tank or a pond and have them be healthy and grow properly?" said Stukel.
And just like any other type of rancher, the folks at this hatchery can't a day off, either.
"The pallid sturgeon we're raising to release are a lot of work and every single day, Christmas, New Year's, you name it, we're draining and cleaning tanks and feeding these fish," said Stukel.
The hatchery is open for visitors and there’s an aquarium open in the spring.
For hours and days they're both open, please visit: fws.gov/mountain-prairie/fisheries/gavinsPoint
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