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Nebraska Fish Hatcheries

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Valentine Fish Hatchery

Contact Information: Valentine State Fish Hatchery HC 13 Box 16-A Valentine, NE 69201 Phone: (402) 376-2244
E-mail: dana.krueger@nebraska.gov

The Valentine State Fish Hatchery lies in a pine covered valley, one mile east and one mile north of Valentine, Stocking Fish Nebraska. This facility was established (in 1912) along the Minnechaduza Creek which winds through the 700 acre area. The Minnechaduza and Fishberry Creeks provide water for fish production. Water flows are a combined 5000 gallons per minute.

Hatchery operations for an average year begin with the collection of northern pike, walleye, and yellow perch eggs. Eggs are transferred to other state and federal hatcheries to be hatched, reared and distributed. Largemouth bass, bluegill ,black crappie, channel catfish and tiger musky are produced at the hatchery. These fish are stocked in state owned or controlled water across the entire state. Largemouth bass and bluegill are also used in a farm pond management program and stocked in privately owned ponds that meet all the necessary requirements.

Numbers of fish produced change year to year. An average years production would be as follows: northern pike eggs-3million; walleye eggs-60 million; and yellow perch eggs-5 million; Fingerling production for largemouth bass-300,000; bluegill- 1 million; black crappie-50,000; channel catfish-18,000 and tiger musky-7,000. The numbers and species produced will change to meet the needs of the Fisheries Division requests.

Valentine Hatchery Facilities

Valentine Fish Hatchery

1. Hatch House

This building is used to hold, sort, feed and hatch fish. A 48-jar egg battery is available to hold and hatch fish eggs. Northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, musky and tiger musky spend their first few days to several weeks in the hatch house. Hatching jars or incubators are used to store eggs until the young fish hatch into fry. About 3 million northern pike, 60 million walleye, and 5 million perch eggs are handled through the hatch house each year.

2. Raceways

Once the fish have hatched or outgrown the available incubator space, they are moved to the raceways. Here they are fed an artificial diet, and conditions are carefully monitored to control disease and water quality. Intensively cultured fish species produced in raceways would include; largemouth bass, bluegill, yellow perch, and tiger musky.

3. Ponds

There are 35 acres of water in 21 ponds scattered throughout the hatchery grounds. Production ponds are primarily used for extensive culture of warm and cool water fish and range in size from .28 to 8.21 surface acres. Other ponds are used for intensive/extensive culture of channel catfish, yellow perch, bluegill and largemouth bass. Some bluegill ponds are overwintered for spring stockings. Brood stock are kept on the facility all year and include; largemouth bass, bluegill and black crappie.

4. Water Supply Pond

This pond is actually a diversion reservoir that stores water from Minnechaduza Creek. Gravity flow is used to supply water to the hatchery system in the most cost-efficient manner possible.

5. Government Canyon

Government Canyon lies adjacent to the fish hatchery (north) and includes 640 acres of prime wildlife habitat. Fishberry Creek flows through the canyon supplying water to several fish production ponds. This property is walk-in only and offers a variety of opportunities for hikers, bikers, bird watchers, and wildlife photographers. A wide variety of wildlife species live on or around the area. Firearm and archery hunting for deer and turkey is permitted on specified portions of the area.

Fish Production Procedures

North Pike Production

During the spring, fish culturists trapnet adult northern pike from lakes on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge for egg production. The fish are transported to the hatchery where some 20 million eggs are produced. Adult fish are returned to the lakes. The eggs are placed in hatching jars or incubators until they hatch. Once hatched, most of the fry are stocked in Nebraska's lakes and reservoirs. Surplus eggs may be traded to various states or federal hatcheries for other species. This process can be viewed on the facility by contacting the hatchery manager.

Tiger Muskie

While northern pike eggs are being processed, culturists collect musky from the refuge lakes. Procedures for stripping, fertilizing and hatching musky eggs are similar to those for northern pike. If the eggs cannot be collected, other states(Pennsylvania,North Dakota, Illinois) provide fingerlings through trade agreements if there is surplus. The tiger musky, a hybrid fish, is produced by crossing female northern pike with male musky. Once they reach a fingerling size (1-2 inches) in a production pond, the fish are transfered to tanks inside the hatch house, and placed on a dry pellet diet. These hybrids are raised to a quality size (up to 12 inches) and then stocked.

Yellow Perch

Yellow perch adults are also collected from refuge lakes. They are placed in tanks at the hatchery and allowed to spawn naturally. Yellow perch eggs are often shipped to other hatcheries, although some are kept at Valentine and raised for stocking. After the adults have spawned, they are transported back to the lake.


In early April, hatchery culturists net walleye at Merritt Reservoir. Eggs are stripped and fertilized at the lake, and the adults are released back into the reservoir. The eggs are sent to state hatcheries at North Platte, Burwell, or to the federal hatchery at Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D. Some 60 million eggs are collected each year.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass spawning begins in late May,and most activities take place in the 21 ponds scattered throughout the hatchery grounds. Largemouth bass are allowed to spawn naturally in the ponds. When bass fry hatch, many are transferred to ponds and grown to a fingerling size on natural food. Other fingerlings are returned to the hatch house, trained to accept artificial diets, and grown to advanced-fingerling size (4-5") before being stocked. Advanced fingerlings have a better chance of survival in the wild.

Bluegill / Black Crappie

Bluegill and Black Crappie also are allowed to spawn naturally in the ponds. The bluegill can be stocked as fingerlings or placed on a dry diet and stocked as advanced fingerlings. The crappie are drained from the pond in late fall when the water temperatures have cooled and stocked as advanced fingerlings.


Hatchery personnel perform a variety of tasks which keep the Valentine Hatchery in top operating condition to produce fish for Nebraska's lakes and reservoirs. Duties include fish health assessments, pond work, programming and monitoring feeding devices, net building and repair, monitoring water quality, administrative tasks and collecting data on fish production projects.


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Nebraska Game and Parks Commission - 2200 N. 33rd St. Lincoln, NE 68503 - 402-471-0641

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