Hatching a New Hatchery
The new Jasper plant will produce 4 million fish annually.
By Larry D. Hodge
Trying to produce 2 million fish a year at the Jasper State Fish Hatchery is like juggling greased bowling balls while fighting a brush fire with a water pistol. Built in 1932, expanded in 1947 and largely unchanged since, the Jasper hatchery produces nearly 30 percent of the largemouth bass stocked statewide despite a lengthy list of ailments.
The earthen, unlined ponds have silted in and become so shallow that aquatic vegetation is taking over. Less volume in the ponds means fewer fish can be produced. Water gravity-flows into the ponds from a nearby creek, and the difference in elevation is so slight some ponds can’t be filled when the creek is low. The water itself is of poor quality for fish culture.
The list goes on, but the key point is that production capability is declining at the same time that demand is increasing.
The good news is that the East Texas region supports the building of a new hatchery, because fish going into lakes means dollars flowing into the local economy. Freshwater anglers in Texas generated $1.49 billion in retail sales in 2001, according to data collected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sam Rayburn Reservoir anglers spend almost $8 million annually, creating 171 jobs. “We know that the location of this hatchery in East Texas will be a great benefit to the citizens of the entire region and to all the people of Texas,” says Jasper County Judge Joe Folk.
The new hatchery will be located southeast of the Sam Rayburn Reservoir dam on 200 acres of land currently owned by Temple-Inland, Inc., which will deed the property to TPWD.
“We are currently seeking a professional design team to assist in the programming and design of the hatchery,” says TPWD hatchery program chief Gary Saul. “Once we have a team on board, design will take from nine months to a year to complete, and construction should start a few months later.”
The new hatchery will produce 4 million fish annually, double the production of the current Jasper plant. Production will consist of largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, sunfish, hybrid striped bass and possibly other species as the need arises.
“The new hatchery will approximate the size of the current hatchery but will incorporate state-of-the-art technology and dramatically exceed current production,” Saul says. “It will provide flexibility to adapt to meeting new fisheries management needs that was not available in the old hatchery.”
Building the new hatchery is just one part of an aggressive program to increase efficiency, meet environmental regulations and provide anglers with higher-quality fish. To meet these goals, improvements are also planned at the four other freshwater hatcheries and one research center operated by TPWD. Funding will come primarily from the new $5 freshwater fishing stamp that was required beginning September 1, 2004. Sale of the stamp is expected to raise $45 million over 10 years. Another $5 million will come from communities and corporations interested in keeping their local economies strong.
In addition to providing financial support, communities and organizations may partner with TPWD by offering in-kind services.
“Local community support will leverage the value of our new stamp funds to produce the most cost-effective outcome. The bottom line is that fishing in Texas will be better,” says Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director.
For information on major sponsorship opportunities available in connection with the hatchery improvement program, contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation at (214) 720-1478.