Fish in Nebraska

In 1879 a Board of Fish Commissioners was created in Nebraska to increase fish populations and distribution in the state’s public waters. However, for several years prior to that date, much statewide interest had been expressed in stocking Nebraska’s waterways. The Nebraska Reporter of Seward on December 20, 1877, published Senator Algernon S. Paddock’s thoughts on “Fish Culture in Nebraska.”

Paddock said, “The Platte, Republican, the Blues, the Nemahas, the Elkhorn, the Niobrara, and a hundred smaller streams in our state can, with a proper effort on the part of our state authorities, seconded by all the rest of us­each doing all he can in his sphere­be liberally stocked, in a short time, with the most desirable varieties of fish, both as respects rapidity of propagation and values as a food supply. Fish food in abundance would be one of the most valuable acquisitions our people could make. It is demanded by considerations of health, as well as economy. A partial fresh fish diet is absolutely essential, everywhere, to good health. I believe this is true, particularly of a country so far inland as ours. Prof. [Samuel] Aughey or some other of our Nebraska scientists can formulate this theory, if it is worthy of formulation or consideration, better than I can.”

Paddock quoted a letter he had recently received from the commissioner of U.S. Fish and Fisheries advising, “The best method for the successful introduction of useful food fishes into Nebraska, will be to have a state commission appointed, such as now exists in nearly all the states in the Union to whom shall be entrusted the initiation and prosecution of the necessary steps, [and] a sufficiently large appropriation should be placed at their command to erect a hatching house on some suitable situation into which could be received a supply of California salmon eggs from the United States fish commission, which could be hatched at little cost, and at little loss of time, and introduced into the rivers of the state. One thousand eggs can be treated with less risk than ten young fish. The shad is another of the fish suitable for introduction into Nebraska rivers. These I will undertake to supply in the event of congressional appropriations being continued.”

The responsibility for managing the state’s fish has shifted over time. In 1901 the governor was made commissioner of a Game and Fish Commission. It was disbanded in 1919, and administration of game and fish laws was given to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, where it was carried out by the Bureau of Game and Fish. In 1929 the bureau was abolished, and the Forestation and Parks Commission was created. The law was changed in 1935, 1947, and 1949. The 1967 legislature removed responsibility for forests from the commission, and its name was changed to the Game and Parks Commission, which today has charge of state parks, wildlife, and fish.

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