Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's marine hatcheries produce juvenile red drum and spotted seatrout for stock enhancement. Stock enhancement is the release of hatchery-reared juvenile organisms into the wild to supplement the existing population. It serves as a tool used by TPWD to manage the marine fishery along the Texas coast to ensure that harvest levels are sustained and stocks are replenished. TPWD’s hatchery program is one of the most visible marine stock enhancement programs in the world. Annually, some twenty-five million juvenile marine finfish (averaging 35 millimeter total length) are produced by the hatchery program and released into the wild to supplement the natural population. Sea Center Texas is responsible for producing approximately a third of the red drum and one-half of the spotted seatrout stocked.
In the 1970's and early 1980's, a series of extreme winters combined with commercial and recreational over‑harvest had decimated red drum populations. In 1982 TPWD responded by constructing its first marine fish hatchery in Corpus Christi , and the first stocking of red drum into Texas bays occurred in the spring of 1983. In 1985, The Dow Chemical Company, the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), and TPWD helped by the Sport Fish Restoration Act combined their resources. The team conceived a plan to construct a red drum hatchery and education center in Lake Jackson, Texas with the help of the Sport Fish Restoration Act.
Today, red drum and spotted seatrout populations are stable in response to TPWD's coastal management plan. Along with TPWD’s other two marine hatcheries, Sea Center Texas produces quality sport-fish species for stocking Texas bays to counterbalance the effects of habitat degradation, natural catastrophe's and fishing pressure on the species.
Hatchery tours are available by reservation. The hatchery building is engineered for low maintenance, semi-intensive fish production. The high-tech life support systems are tailored for species such as red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) and spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus). Mature adults are housed in the hatchery and induced to spawn naturally in tanks. Eggs are transferred to incubators where they hatch. The tiny (1mm) larvae are then stocked in ponds to grow for the next 1-2 months. The harvested fish, called fingerlings, are harvested and transported to bays to enhance natural populations and improve the recreational fishery in Texas. The facility’s annual production goal is 15 million fingerlings.
Hatchery Tour Reservation Times
Tours last about 45 minutes. Reservation can be made at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. Tuesday - Friday and at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays either by emailing a tour reservation form | PDF or by calling 979-292-0100 ext. 21. Before making a reservation, groups larger than 15 are asked to review the Guidelines for Group Tours and Education Programs | PDF