The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

March 17, 2013

VIDEO: Reporter following growth, development of 60,000 fry at Roaring River

CASSVILLE, Mo. — It was time to see the 60,000 trout babies I’d helped spawn 29 days earlier. I felt like there should be a drum roll.

But the Roaring River State Park hatchery manager, Paul Spurgeon, unceremoniously unwraps the incubation tube through which spring water flowed, and gently sets aside the piece of black plastic that had been shielding them from light.

He has hatched enough trout — 250,000 per year for decades — that to him this is just part of the routine.

I, on the other hand, am excited. Since I joined hatchery personnel on Feb. 13 in helping to extract eggs from the female broodstock and milt from the males, and then fertilized them, I’ve thought of these potential trout often.

A quick peek when I dropped by the hatchery on March 1 for Opening Day of catch-and-keep trout season allowed me to happily check the first major milestone off of their development chart — they had eyes.

Now, 11 days later, I hope they have hatched. The stage they just completed was the most fragile of their life cycle; Brad Farwell, assistant hatchery manager, noted that any number of variables can negatively impact it.

I hold my breath and lean in to look.

“We have fish,” Farwell said with a smile.

Gone are the school-bus yellow eggs, replaced by translucent amber, half-inch long baby trout.

Spurgeon’s experienced glance at the tube tells him that about 60 percent of the eggs we’d fertilized had survived; the ones that did not were the pasta-colored eggs that remained in the tube, he explained.

“That’s an excellent mortality rate for this water temperature,” he said, happy with the results.

At this point the tiny trout are called “sac fry.” They are named for the sac of nutrients attached to their underside when they hatch.

That sac is like the yolk of an egg, Farwell explained. For the next 14 to 20 days, our sac fry will get their required nutrients only from their sacs, then scales and skin will grow around the sacs and the fish will be called just “fry.”

As Farwell cleans the long metal trough into which we plan to pour the sac fry, he explains that they will spend until the end of March in the trough, and the attention to cleanliness reduces the chance for deadly fungus to develop.

“This is the second most fragile stage of their development,” Farwell said.

My sac fry will have some company: In troughs nearby, three more incubator tubes hold approximately 200,000 trout eggs spawned at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery last month.

“The state’s five hatcheries work hand-in-hand in the trout-rearing business,” Spurgeon said. “When one hatchery isn’t producing the numbers it needs, or when one has too many, we all share.”

In six indoor raceways, there are a few other neighbors, too: Fry that already have absorbed their sacs and are growing at a steady rate of one inch per month. There are, unbelievably, 80,000 of them.

Much more demanding than newborn human babies, hatchery personnel must feed the developing trout every hour. They use a complex feeding formula based on the percentage of body weight and the size of fish desired, which here is about 12 inches when it’s released into Roaring River.

“I try to feed them as much as I can while they’re inside so I can move them fast,” Farwell said.

The fish meal the hatchery crew uses to feed them is, in itself, a story: Fishermen off the coast of South America net a species of fish called menhaden, which are used to create the fishmeal. It comes to Roaring River by way of Utah, to the tune of 296,320 pounds last year.

It’s not cheap.

“Our food costs have doubled in the last five years,” Spurgeon said. “Our budget is $180,000 for food.”

Using about 1,000 pounds a day at his hatchery, that figure isn’t surprising. But with that food comes an obvious side effect by way of the trouts’ digestive tract: waste.

Three or four times a day, the crew comes in to clean the waste and excess feed out of each metal trough and concrete raceway.

Beyond keeping the trout alive, the goal is to continually make space for others in an assembly line-style production. As trout grow, hatchery personnel thin them by dividing one group housed in one raceway to two groups in two raceways — 8,000 becomes 4,000, and then 4,000 becomes 2,000, and so on.

By late April, the hatchery’s inside raceways will be at maximum capacity. As soon as my trout hit three inches, probably by late May or early June, they will be moved to the outdoor raceways.

Next year at this time, the trout I spawned will be in the river. I consider that as I walk to my car and see anglers dotting the banks, a few already with trout on their stringers.

My trout might end up on a hook, then down at the cleaning station and eventually on a plate. I am an angler who comes here often — perhaps it will be my own.

I am OK with that, though. We joked when I fertilized them that we’d need to come up with 60,000 names. We joked when we unveiled the incubator tube that a few of them had my eyes. But of course they aren’t my offspring.

They are the reason, mostly, that 100,000 people visit Roaring River State Park each year, and have been since 1928.

Keeping tabs

Andra plans to help net her trout to transport them to the outdoor raceways as the summer season gets under way at Roaring River State Park. There, visitors to the park can help the hatchery crew feed them as the trout grow to the desired 12 inches.


Text Only
Top Stories
  • 041714 School safe rooms4_72.jpg Joplin school district readies community safe rooms for storm season

    Thousands of Joplin residents will soon be able to stay safe during storms in some of the region’s newest shelters. Community safe rooms at Cecil Floyd, Stapleton, McKinley and Eastmorland elementary schools, which double as gymnasiums, and Junge Field, which will double as a field house, are expected to be open within the next few weeks, according to Mike Johnson, the school district’s director of construction.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Public hearing set on posed TIF district

    Financial details of a proposed new tax increment financing district for the Silver Creek Galleria area will be discussed in detail at an April 28 public hearing, members of the city’s TIF Commission were told Thursday. Chris Williams, a TIF attorney representing the city of Joplin, told the panel the Thursday meeting was intended to walk commissioners through the public hearing steps.

    April 17, 2014

  • 041714 Treble Makers.jpg Carl Junction ‘Treble Makers’ to sing at Springfield Cardinals’ stadium

    Next month, 75 Carl Junction sixth-grade students will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Hammons Field before a Springfield Cardinals game. And with more than 600 parents, family members and other residents planning to attend, the May 3 event has been dubbed “Carl Junction Day.”

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Volunteer projects spark two bills in Jefferson City

    Bills moving through the Missouri House and Senate were inspired by a volunteer project in Carl Junction last year that stalled over a question of whether those volunteers had to be paid prevailing wage under Missouri law. “This bill is very simple. All it says is if someone is a volunteer, they won’t be forced to be paid prevailing wage,” state Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, told lawmakers during a hearing on his bill last week.

    April 17, 2014

  • Missouri House votes to expand sales tax exemptions

    Pizza parlors, doughnut shops and even convenience stores all could be in line for a tax break on the food that they make and sell as a result of a measure moving through the Missouri Legislature.

    April 18, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Friday’s Joplin Globe.

    April 17, 2014

  • More volunteers, donations sought for ‘Victory 4 Haiti’

    The second meals-for-Haiti project, scheduled for April 26, is in need of donations and volunteers, organizers say. “Victory 4 Haiti,” a food-packaging event that will provide meals to the Haitian Christian Mission in the village of Fond-Parisien and elsewhere in Haiti, needs $60,000 to pay for about 280,000 meals.

    April 16, 2014

  • TIF proposal filed for development of area at 44th Street and Range Line

    Joplin’s Tax Increment Financing Commission will hold an informational meeting today on a proposal to establish a TIF district to pay for a wetlands project on property in the area of 44th Street and Range Line, where a developer wants to build a retail, office and hospitality district.

    April 16, 2014

  • 041614 MDOT5_72.jpg JATSO recommends 15 road projects for planning

    The reconstruction of the Highway 171/Interstate 49 interchange at Carthage and the construction of a limited-access highway on the west side of Joplin and Carl Junction are among the top highway projects to be identified by the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin city attorney takes job in Lee’s Summit

    City Attorney Brian Head will leave his Joplin post next month for a job in Lee’s Summit in suburban Kansas City. Head submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday morning to Mayor Mike Seibert and the City Council. The council is his employer.

    April 16, 2014