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Around Our Town...Game and Fish

Dan Speas Fish Rearing Station

08/01/2005 - What Natrona County facility runs on natural spring water, provides jobs for five full-time employees, is roughly 10 miles from Casper, and produces 800,000 sport fish per year for anglers?

If you weren't able to answer this question, perhaps it is time for a tour of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Dan Speas Fish Rearing Station.

Speas Rearing Station is one of the largest fish production facilities in the state, producing 800,000 fish annually. But Speas is not a hatchery. "It's a rearing station. It's where we grow fish until they are big enough to stock," said Gordon Townsend, superintendent of the rearing station. "Fish are brought here from hatcheries at about two inches in length and they are held at the facility between two and six months."

When they reach the appropriate size fingerling size (3-5 inches) or catchable size (8-10) inches they are stocked in rivers and reservoirs across the state as part of the Game and Fish Department's sport fishing program. Most of the fish produced at Speas are stocked into the waters of the North Platte River system, such as Pathfinder, Seminoe and the Laramie Plains lakes. Species that have been reared at Speas include Snake River cutthroat, brown trout and rainbow trout. Through regular fish stocking, the Game and Fish Department is able to meet the demand of Wyoming's angling population. "Trout don't reproduce at sustainable levels at most of the state's reservoirs, so we stock them," Townsend said.

Speas also provides a location for biologists to perform research projects. For example, earlier this month biologists clipped fins on 80,000 rainbow trout as part of a study to determine which strain of the fish would perform best at the Miracle Mile fishery. "Fishing at Miracle Mile has been declining some over the past few years," said Al Conder, Casper Regional fisheries supervisor. "We're doing this study to help maintain it as an excellent fishery."

By studying two different strains of rainbow trout, the Eagle Lake Rainbow and the Firehole Rainbow, biologists hope to determine which will perform best at Miracle Mile. Different fins were clipped on each strain so that biologists can tell them apart a few years down the road when the project is concluded and data is collected.

One advantage Speas has as a rearing station is that fish grow quickly there. The Goose Egg Spring, one of the largest fresh water springs in the state, supplies the rearing station with 6,000 gallons of water per minute at a constant temperature of 60 degrees. The constant temperature allows fish to grow at the rate of about an inch a month.

This rapid growth rate allows biologists to stock fish twice a year. The spring stocking begins around the first of April and ends by mid May. The fall stocking season begins about the end of September and ends by the middle of October.

Once the fish have reached the desired size, they are ready to be loaded into distribution trucks for stocking. The fish are crowded to the end of the raceway, where a special fish pump transfers them to the truck. Each tank on the truck is equipped with a special life support system to provide oxygen to the fish and to ensure a safe trip to the stocking site and, eventually, onto the hooks of eager anglers.

By providing 800,000 fish to the state's waters each year, Speas helps create excellent angling opportunities for the residents of Wyoming.

"We're always looking for ways to improve fishing," Conder said. "We're here for the sport fisherman."

Dan Speas Rearing Station is located along the west bank of the North Platte River in the Bessemer Bend area and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for visits. For more information, call 473-8890.

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