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Valentine Fish HatcheryContact Information: Valentine State Fish Hatchery HC 13 Box 16-A Valentine, NE 69201 Phone: (402) 376-2244
The Valentine State Fish Hatchery lies in a pine covered valley, one mile east and one mile north of Valentine, 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
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.
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 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 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.