Raising trout in southwest Nebraska

Pure Nebraska
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 4:21 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Just north of a village called Parks in Dundy County, if you drive far enough, you’ll run into the Rock Creek Fish Hatchery.

1011 NOW wanted to learn more about this unique place in rural Nebraska, and we talked with Julie Fraley about it. She is the fish production manager at the hatchery.

“I basically manage the day to day operations here,” Fraley said. “I make sure the fish are getting raised, and make sure they are up to 10 inches before we stock them out over the western part of Nebraska.”

It turns out that visitors are welcome at the fish hatchery.

“We have many guests come in, especially during the summer with Rock Creek Lake just south of us,” Fraley said. “We ask them if they need a tour. If they say yes, we’ll take them on about a 30-minute tour, explain the fish we raise, where we stock them, and we let the kids feed the fish, and they just seem to enjoy that.”

There are many months where delivering and stocking fish is a big priority.

“For March, April and May, October and November, we are stocking fish every week,” Fraley said. “We are actually moving fish out of the ponds. On certain days, we load the fish onto a truck, and then we are heading out to stocking locations. Our longest trip is to Harrison. It’s about a 6 1/2 hour trip one way for us.”

The Rock Creek Fish Hatchery was a private hatchery in 1913.

“In 1924 to 1926, Game and Parks purchased it,” Fraley said. “It turned into a government hatchery then. At that point in time, there was actually a state fish hatchery in Benkelman. Around the 1950′s or 60′s, everything fully came out to this hatchery, and that’s how this became a Game and Parks hatchery today.”

“For fish we raise here, it’s mainly rainbow trout, and we do a little more than 100,000 of them a year,” Fraley said. “On every other year, we do tiger trout which is a brook brown cross that we stock in area lakes, and we even do some warm water species. We have a pond of rock bass currently that will spawn and get stocked out. We will be doing yellow perch this year. In the past, we’ve done crappie, and we’ve done small mouth and large mouth bass. It all depends on what the other hatcheries are raising.”

It turns out the state has four fish hatcheries and one rearing station.

“Grove Rearing Station produces rainbow trout and cut-throat trout near the community of Royal,” Fraley said. “We have the hatchery at the Calamus Reservoir which raises mostly warm water species, some cool water species and rainbow trout. We have the North Platte hatchery that does warm and cool water species, and we have a hatchery in Valentine where they do a lot of bass and sunfish.”

At the Rock Creek Fish Hatchery, the staff helps supply lakes throughout the western part of the state.

“We stock all over western Nebraska, and all the way east to places like Kearney and Red Cloud,” Fraley said. “Mainly, we stock urban ponds and lakes for our urban fishing programs. We are open here seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mountain Time.”