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Nebraska Fish Hatcheries

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Calamus Fish Hatchery

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contact information:
Calamus Fish Hatchery
HC 79 Box 20J Burwell, NE 68823 - Phone: (308) 346-4226
Email: doug.kapke@nebraska.gov

Daryl Bauers Blog "Barbs and Backslashes" on Recent Improvements at the Hatchery

The Calamus State Fish Hatchery is located at the base of the Virginia Smith Dam seven miles northwest of Burwell The hatchery is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and is operated and maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Calamus Fish Hatchery

The Calamus State Fish Hatchery is one of five hatcheries in Nebraska's fish production system. Other hatcheries are located near North Platte, Valentine, Parks and Royal. The available water supply at the Calamus Hatchery is nearly double the amount available at the other four facilities, at an estimated 18,750 gallons per minute.

This state-of-the-art facility differs from other Nebraska hatcheries in a number of ways. This is the first state hatchery to utilize a large volume of well water, and have the ability to oxygenate that water, have an ultraviolet disinfecting system; have lined ponds; use a computerized water alarm system; and is able to warm water to specific incubation temperatures through the use of a heat exchanger. A pathology and research laboratory allows biologists to study different fish diseases and parasites, and offers the opportunity to develop new fish culture techniques.


The North Loup Division, a project of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, was conceived in the 1940-1950's by federal Bureau of Reclamation planners. In 1954, the Twin Loups Irrigation and Reclamation districts were formed and in 1957 and 1958, the districts secured water rights for the Calamus Reservoir and a 53,000-acre irrigation project.

For nearly 20 years, the districts promoted the North Loup Division Project until Congress authorized its construction in 1972. The Bureau of Reclamation began construction on the reservoir project in 1976.

In accordance with an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-evaluated the fish and wildlife aspects of the North Loup Division in a 1980 report. A supplemental report in 1981 proposed the construction of the Calamus State Fish Hatchery as a feature of the North Loup Division Project.

Funding for initial construction of the hatchery was provided for under the terms of the Federal Water Project Recreation Act (PL. 89-72), which called for federal matching funds at a ratio of three federal dollars for each state dollar put into the project Federal. funding for completion was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Federal Aid to Sport Fish Restoration Program. Under that program, federal excise taxes paid by anglers on fishing tackle and equipment and on motorboat fuels are collected and also paid to states on a three-to-one matching ratio.

In 1986, the Nebraska Legislature granted the Game and Parks Commission budget authority to begin construction on the hatchery. A slight increase in the cost of a Nebraska fishing license was necessary to provide sufficient funds for the state's share of the $8.6 million total cost of the facility.

Ground was broken for the new hatchery in June 1989. An official dedication ceremony and a formal open house were conducted in September 1991.

Calamus Hatchery Facilities

Calamus 3D Perspective

1. Calamus River

Water from the Calamus River, some of which is stored in the Calamus Reservoir, is used to supply the water for hatchery operations. A 1988 memorandum of understanding between the Twin Loups Reclamation District and the Game and Parks Commission provides for the use of district water from the reservoir. A 36-inch pipeline extending from the reservoir to the hatchery can provide in excess of 15,000 gallons per minute.

2. Shop and Feed Storage

This building houses equipment and vehicles, and is used for large maintenance tasks such as repairing nets and vehicle work. The majority of feed used at the hatchery is stored here.

3. Silt Settling Ponds

All water that has been used in the entire hatchery is collected in one of two ponds. Silt and waste materials in the effluent water are allowed to settle out before the water is returned to the Calamus River.

4. Office/Laboratory Building

The main hatchery structure, this building houses administrative functions, a visitors center and the wet laboratory. Offices for hatchery personnel, a meeting room and other staff facilities are located here. Educational exhibits related to Nebraska fishing are on display in the visitors center. Public restrooms are located in this building.

Nearly three-fourths of the main hatchery building is comprised of the wet laboratory. This lab houses all of the primary hatching equipment, including hatching batteries and aquariums. A heat exchanger for regulating the water temperature, special water filters and an ultraviolet disinfecting system are located in the northeast section of the large laboratory. The wet laboratory is protected by a computerized water alarm system that is based in this building. A pathology laboratory for research and a special area for mixing feed also is found in the wet lab.

5. Aeration/Degassing Towers

Many aspects of raising and rearing fish at the Calamus Hatchery use water that is pumped from ground wells on the site. Normally well water lacks sufficient oxygen and has high levels of gases, such as nitrogen. The tower is specially designed to oxygenate well water and release its gaseous substances.

6. Raceways

Raceways are used to hold and raise fish. Many small fish can be kept in a raceway, and feeding and cleaning activities are easier in raceways than in ponds. There are 24 concrete raceways available for holding fish at the Calamus Hatchery. Cold water from ground wells that has been oxygenated and degassed by the tower structures is the primary water source for the raceways.

7. Ponds

A total of 51 ponds are available at the hatchery. The 40 one-acre ponds and h half-acre ponds will hold walleye, hybrid bass and other species until they have grown to the desired stocking size Each of the ponds has a polyethylene liner to prevent seepage and erosion.


Fish Production

The hatchery primarily is geared to hatch and raise cold and cool-water fish. Initial emphasis will be placed on walleye,, hybrid bass and trout. Intensive culture of yellow perch, largemouth bass, bluegill and hybrid muskie also is planned. Operations at the Calamus Hatchery will allow the state's other hatcheries to, concentrate on other species demanded by Nebraska anglers.

Walleye Production

Each year walleye eggs are stripped from adult fish in Nebraska reservoirs with healthy walleye populations. Major hatching activity begins in early April and usually is complete within four weeks.

The eggs are fertilized and placed in jars within a large hatching incubator, where water is circulated to keep the eggs well-oxygenated. The eggs hatch into small fish, called fry, usually in about 14 days.

These fry are either put into containers for immediate stocking, or are moved to fertilized production ponds where they are allowed to grow for stocking as larger fish.

Hybrid Bass Production

Striped bass-white bass hybrids or "wipers" are created from crossing striped bass males with white bass females. Since there is no reliable source of striped bass males in Nebraska, they must be shipped in from other states. Usually 10-15 male fish arrive in Nebraska during April.

White bass females are collected from lakes and reservoirs in Nebraska that contain sufficient populations. The females are injected with hormones to stimulate the release of eggs, which are then fertilized with semen obtained from the striped bass males.

The eggs are placed in hatching jars, and hatch into fry in about two days. Newly hatched fry spend 2-3 days in large, water-filled aquariums that are well-oxygenated. Then the fry are either stocked in waters where public fishing is allowed, or placed into rearing ponds, where the fish are allowed to grow for stocking as larger fish.

Trout Production

Brown and rainbow trout that are hatched at the Rock (Creek Fish Hatchery w Parks are transported to the Calamus State Fish Hatchery. The fingerlings (2-3 inches) are put into the cold-water raceways where they are raised to stocking size. The trout are put on a feed diet, and their growth regular Some of the trout are stocked as 5-inch fish, while others are stocked at 9-11 inches. The trout from the this hatchery are stocked in streams and lakes across the state.

Other Species

The large hatchery facility will allow fish culturists to work with other fish species like largemouth bass, yellow perch, bluegill and hybrid muskie. Normally stocked when 1-1/2 inches long, these fish can be allowed to reach 65 inches at the Calamus Hatchery before being stocked. Hybridization and research opportunities also will be addressed in an effort to improve management of the state's hatchery system.

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