STAYcations:Touch crawfish and feed catfish at fish hatchery

Fast facts
TOURISM ATTRACTION: Pvt. John Allen National Fish Hatchery

ADDRESS: 111 Elizabeth St., Tupelo 38802

HOW FAR: 51 miles from Corinth, 51 miles from Oxford, 23 miles from Fulton

PHONE NUMBER: (662) 842-1341

HOURS OF OPERATION: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

FEE: Free

HOW LONG A TOUR TAKES: About 30 minutes

BY CARLIE KOLLATH
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Behind the fence of the Pvt. John Allen National Fish Hatchery on Elizabeth Street, you’ll find baby lake sturgeon, cylinders of catfish eggs waiting to hatch and at least a hundred live crawfish.

And that's just in one building.

Outside, the 15 ponds are home to channel catfish, bluegill, paddlefish (spoonbills), alligator gar, Gulf Coast striped bass, largemouth bass, redear sunfish and Gulf Coast walleye. The occasional turtle can be found, too.

The hatchery is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and raises fish that are then supplied to state game and fish agencies, which stock lakes and rivers. The hatchery used to supply fish to stock farm ponds, but it no longer gives or sells fish to the public.

The facility’s staff members also are actively involved in conservation and aquatic outreach education, as well. In addition, they do aquatic habitat restoration in several states.

“Even though we are located here in Tupelo, our region of work is the southeastern United States,” said hatchery manager Ricky Campbell.

Visitors are welcome to walk around the grounds, but Laura Dobbins, hatchery office assistant and tour guide, recommends people call in advance to make sure there's something to see.

Fish activity depends on the weather and life cycle, so some times are better for fish viewing than others.

It also depends on what the hatchery is doing in a particular week. Sometimes it is hatching catfish eggs and other times it is transferring lake sturgeon to new tanks.

Dobbins can give a 30-minute tour to visitors.

Because the tour is relatively short, Dobbins said the hatchery is “usually one stop of many.”

During the tour, she walks visitors around the facility and feeds the fish, giving you a better look at the fish as they swim to the top of the ponds for food.

The crawfish are popular with children and are one of the only species on site that can be touched. Oils on human skin can hurt the other species in the tanks.

The crawfish are used for vegetation control in the ponds, and Campbell said the critters are so abundant that “at night when we’ve had a lot of rain, they’re crawling everywhere.”

Trivia
The hatchery was opened in 1902, and hatchery manager Ricky Campbell said Tupelo can thank the railroads. He said in the early 1900s, trains were the most reliable way to ship fish and the Tupelo hatchery has railroad tracks on two sides of its property.

The wooden “fish cars” were outfitted with aquatic systems for the fish and living quarters for the caretakers. They were popular until the 1930s, when transportation moved to air and truck
travel.

Other things to do
If you want to make your trip longer, check out these attractions in the area:

Tupelo Automobile Museum

Fairpark fountain and playground

Elvis Presley Birthplace

Shopping in downtown Tupelo

Call the Tupelo Convention and
Visitors Bureau at (662) 841-6521 for more ideas.

Food options downtown
Bar-B-Q by Jim (barbeque and Southern cuisine)

Benjamins on Main (Cajun cuisine and steaks)

The Bistro on Main (American
with French and Italian influences)

Boondocks Grill (Cajun cuisine)

Cafe 212 (soups, sandwiches
and coffee shop)

The Fairpark Grill (American pub and grill food)

Hardee’s (fast food)

Joe Joe’s Espresso (Boar’s Head sandwiches, soups and coffee shop)

Park Heights (upscale American cuisine)

The Stables Bar and Grill
(American cuisine)

Todd’s Downtown Deli (plate lunches and salad bar)