With Labor Day now in the rearview mirror, I once again ponder one of our most cherished activities – eating. Who doesn’t like a good meal? Or snack?

With Labor Day now in the rearview mirror, I once again ponder one of our most cherished activities – eating. Who doesn’t like a good meal? Or snack?
Labor Day is not a holiday that garners a big media blitz except for the long weekend sales that various establishments offer to lure you away from your money. But there is always the mention of a cookout or picnic or other festive food-centered gathering when speaking of the first Monday of September each year.
Here at the hatchery, we enjoy such assemblies when there are special events, or when we have special visitors. It is always good to eat and fellowship with others, and we look for any excuse to do it right! And even though our scaly aquatic friends in the ponds and raceways have no recognition of any day being different than the next (that we’re aware of, anyway!), they definitely have it good in the sustenance department. F
rom sunup to sundown, and even beyond, automatic feeders dump a good portion of food into the raceways – all run on solar power. Hatchery lead biologist Jaime Pacheco says they go through about 1000 pounds of pelleted fish food a week this time of year, and we are not even at the peak of production! In all, over 60 tons of food are purchased over a year’s time for these beautiful rainbow trout – all to get them to around 10 inches in length where most will be stocked in Branson’s Lake Taneycomo.
One of the most entertaining activities around the visitor’s center revolves around food as well. There is free fish food for guests to give to the trout in pond 11, just to the east. With our other production ponds still being worked on, it’s pretty easy to locate. Even before you toss in some pellets, those ever-hungry trout will zero in on you, and they will flip and jump and scramble over and every which way to be the one to get your offerings. It never gets old to watch!
But trout are not our only fish food customers. For years now, a team ducks has been enjoying the hatchery grounds, and it doesn’t take long for them to realize the edible bonanza that we humans can provide. When we have ducklings, even they quickly realize the benefits of such a tasty buffet, and neither young nor old are in any hurry to leave. With everything they need right here, who can blame them? They’re no dummies – they’ve taken up residence here at the hatchery. We also see the occasional heron around the pond, but we’re not so happy to feed those birds!
So while we don’t want any of you pitching a tent and living here at the hatchery, we DO want to invite you to come feed the fish, take in the sights, and perhaps feed your own friends and family with a picnic or party here. Such beautiful and amusing resources so close by, come, treat yourself today!

Bruce Hallman writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.