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Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery

leah kirk

Trout are not natural inhabitants of Missouri lakes and streams. The water is too warm for them, but Table Rock Dam created the perfect conditions. The water at the lowest level in the lake stays at 44 to 52 degrees, too cold for other Missouri fish but perfect for the development of trout.

At the visitors’ center, you can watch a film giving the details of how fish were bred, fed and raised in the tanks covering the area at the base of the dam. The trout used for breeding are bigger than those released for fishing.

You can see males be milked for their sperm, which could happen anytime because the males are always ready.The females needed to have developed eggs, something that happens in the right season. The staff, who can tell when the female fish are ready to spawn, make the process less stressful, anesthetize them and inject oxygen to prepare them for the squeezing. The eggs are then placed in a tank with sperm to be fertilized.

The baby fish have a bag attached to their stomach that provides all the food they need for the first period of their lives. After 30 days they are hand fed. As they grow they are moved from tank to tank as the food is changed to meet their needs. Finally, at about 12 inches long, they are released into Lake Taneycomo and other Missouri managed streams for public trout fishing.

None of the 1 million fish released each year go into the commercial market. If you want Missouri-raised trout, you need to get yourself a license and pole and come down to Branson. Because the release of water from Table Rock Dam creates unstable conditions trout do not usually reproduce in Lake Taneycomo.