For over a year, the Neosho National Fish Hatchery has been anticipating the arrival of our latest federally endangered species to assist.
Around the transition from 2013 to 2014, conversations were happening regarding some empty raceways that were used years ago for breeding brown trout. That trout project came and went, like many others in the 127 years of the hatchery’s history, and for more than a decade, its deeper raceways have been unused.
Enter the diminutive Topeka shiner to Neosho. This fish is a minnow — hardly one that you might take notice of — and yet it is in serious trouble and headed for extinction. In 1998, this little fish was officially placed on the list that no species wants to make.
When a plant or animal or other organism is formally designated as “endangered,” there are all sorts of ways to proceed to help things get better. For these fish, a recovery plan was established in 2004 that identified its critical habitat needs and this helped each affected state move into action.
So the shiner has been on the radar for a while, but in March the stars all aligned and we received about 200 for the purpose of breeding them.
The fish have been happily living in that unused raceway, eating bugs that were attracted to the water as well as flaked fish food. We even opened up the roof with window panels so the sun could warm the water up to a shiner-pleasing 80°F which triggered their reproductive behaviors. Soon their fins showed the characteristic red coloration, and they were seen to be active in our breeding boxes.