Internship at the Marion State Fish Hatchery
Written by: Ashley Upton, Biology Major
Marion State Fish Hatchery is the largest of three freshwater fish hatcheries located in the state of Alabama. These hatcheries are affiliated with the fisheries section of the Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Each hatchery focuses on producing fish and stocking waterways throughout the state of Alabama. Marion Hatchery has five main purposes: receiving broodstock, spawning fish, producing fry, harvesting ponds, and stocking waterways throughout the state.
Marion Hatchery begins receiving striped bass broodstock in March. Most of the striped bass broodstock are received from Lewis Smith Lake and the Coosa River. Upon arrival at the hatchery, each fish is weighed and placed under anesthesia using MS-222 to reduce the stress administered during handling. Each fish is also tagged for identification purposes.
  The picture above shows typical stage
one eggs.
The eggs of female striped bass must be staged to determine the time until the fish will spawn. Eggs are abstracted by inserting a glass catheter through the genital pore into the ovaries. The eggs are then viewed under a microscope to determine the amount of time until the fish will ovulate.

If the eggs are at a stage one, the female striped bass is injected with Luteinizing Hormone Releasing Hormone (LhRh) to speed up the ovulation time. If needed, the fish will later be injected with Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). All of the female broodstock are injected with one or both of the hormones in order to speed up ovulation time and to ensure that the time until the fish will spawn is predictable to the staff of the hatchery. Males can also be injected with the hormones to induce milt production.
Upon ovulation, the eggs will flow freely from the female indicating that it is time to spawn. Eggs are fertilized with the milt from many striped bass males to ensure genetic diversity. White bass males can be used in the spawning process if hybrids are desired. The eggs and milt are mixed with water using a feather. Little pressure is exerted during the mixing process to ensure that the eggs are fertilized without causing damage to them. This is a very precise process considering sperm motility lasts only 30 to 60 seconds and eggs remain fertile for only two minutes after added to water.

After spawning is complete, the fertilized eggs are equally apportioned into hatching jars. Each hatching jar is subject to constant water circulation to ensure that the eggs do not settle to the bottom and suffocate. After the eggs hatch, the fry are placed in troughs where their swim bladders inflate allowing them to develop swimming skills. While in the troughs, fry feed off of their yolk sac until about day five when their mouth parts develop allowing them to consume brine shrimp.
When the fry reach a couple of millimeters in length, they are stocked into ponds at the hatchery. Marion Hatchery has over 30 ponds. While in the ponds the fry feed off of zooplankton, which are stocked into these ponds by the hatchery personnel.
When the fry reach an inch or so in length, they are considered fingerlings and are the proper size to be harvested. When the fingerlings are ready to come out of the ponds, they will begin swimming around the banks of the ponds. When this occurs, the ponds are drained and the fingerlings are gathered using nets and then placed in vats until time for shipping.
Each year, fisheries biologists visit waterways throughout the state to evaluate fish populations. Any inadequacies are relayed to hatcheries where needed fish are produced and stocked into these lakes and rivers to prevent population decreases. When fingerlings arrive at the stocking location, they are first acclimated to the receiving waters. This is especially important if the temperature difference between the hauling water and receiving water is greater than 2ºF. After the fingerlings are acclimated, the drain of the hauling basin is opened and the fish are allowed to swim through the drain into the receiving waters. After the striped bass fingerlings are stocked, the long process of capturing broodstock and later stocking tens of thousands of fingerlings in its place is completed.

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