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Wigwam Rearing Station
2420 Highway 16 East
Tensleep, Wyoming 82442
Located 4 miles east of the town of Tensleep on Highway 16.
The Wigwam Rearing Station is situated on 420 acres near the mouth of the Ten Sleep Canyon four miles east of the town of Ten Sleep. Prior to becoming a Wyoming state fish rearing facility, this location was a dude ranch. Wigwam was renovated from money that was generously allocated from the 2004 legislature, and construction was completed in 2005.
Two springs and one well provide approximately 1800 gallons per minute at a constant temperature of 49 degrees F. This constant flow and temperature is important for raising trout by providing year round growth and allowing personnel to determine how many fish can be held on station at any given time.
Generally, Wigwam raises rainbow trout and Colorado River cutthroat trout. However, Wigwam has raised brown trout, splake (brook trout X lake trout hybrid), brook trout, and Snake River cutthroat trout. Wigwam is also the home of the eastern enclave Colorado River cutthroat trout brood stock. A brood stock is a group of adult fish that supply eggs for future fish production.
The eastern enclave Colorado River cutthroat trout is native to the Little Snake River drainage in south central Wyoming. There is also a western enclave that is native to the Green River drainage. The reason these two populations are not considered the same Colorado River cutthroat trout is that they are genetically different and separated spatially. The western enclave captive brood stock is housed at the Daniel Fish Hatchery.
Spawning time for these brood fish begins around the end of March. Some of the fish become mature and start producing eggs at two years old, but most are mature at age three. Only three-year-old and four year old fish are spawned. Three-year-old fish are only crossed with four- year-old fish to maintain genetic variability. If fish of the same age were crossed, there would be a significant chance that brothers and sisters would be crossed, ultimately diluting the genetic blueprint of the fish. Fish are manually stripped of eggs and milt, or sperm, from the males is added to fertilize the eggs. Once the eggs are fertilized, they are shipped in coolers full of water to another hatchery where they are incubated and hatched.
Fish produced from this brood stock are predominantly used for restoration efforts and fishing opportunities in their native drainage. Because wild populations of these fish occupy a very small area, this stock is extremely important to have. If a catastrophic event happened and a wild stock was lost, this captive stock could be used to restore the lost population. A small number of these fish are also stocked outside their native range to provide more diverse fishing opportunity.
For the most part, Wigwam is a rearing station and does not have the capability to hatch eggs.Although we do hatch a small quantity of eggs in a limited amount of space, most of the fish that Wigwam raises have to come to the facility as a transfer from another fish hatchery. This means generally, we do not handle eggs after the spawn and only receive fish to rear after they reach a size of about 2 inches long.
Because fish are cold blooded creatures, they grow based on water temperature. The warmer the water, the faster they grow, and the colder the water, the slower they grow. Wigwam’s water is 49 degrees F, so fish here grow at a moderate rate. Growth also depends on the species of fish. Rainbow trout grow faster than cutthroat trout. Rainbow trout grow about ¾ of an inch a month and cutthroat trout grow about ½ inch a month here at Wigwam.
All of the fish rearing tanks are supplied with spring water. Spring water comes out of the ground at Wigwam at a constant 49 degrees F year round. Because there is a large volume of water constantly flowing through the fish rearing tanks, the temperature doesn’t change whether it is 100 degrees or 30 below zero outside.
Although it can vary greatly from year to year, Wigwam typically raises about 200,000 to 300,000 fish that total 35,000 to 45,000lbs. Each rearing unit can have anywhere from 8,000 to 40,000 fish depending on the size of the fish. Smaller fish take up less room in a tank; therefore, many more small fish will fit in one tank.As the fish grow, they are thinned into empty tanks until they are ready to be released.
Once fish have reached a desired size, they are counted and loaded onto a truck that has water and oxygen. The fish are then transported down the highway or back road to their destination. Fish are also hauled by ATV’s, boats, and helicopter as well. But, the vast majority of fish are hauled by truck.