TOPEKA, Ill. (WMBD)– Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery Assistant Manager Diane Shasteen is collecting Fatmucket Mussels from their Summer home in the hatchery’s solar pond.
It’s her project that started back in 2017. The facility has worked with multiple different species found around the Midwest. Monday’s collection group is from right here in Central Illinois.
“They’ll go back into the system their parentals came from. These are from the Mackinaw River over by Colfax,” said Shasteen.
The hatchery’s fish even play a role in mussel production, much like they would in the wild.
“They have host species that they use, which are different species of fish, and actually they can even use other organisms like salamanders to host their larvae while they are developing,” said Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery Natural Resources Coordinator Frank Sladek.
The fish then shed the tiny, young mussels and they then are collected again and put in the pond to feed and grow.
“These creatures are vital to their ecosystem. They also provide habitat for other fish. When the dead shells are in the river, they provide the habitat. They provide food for mammals, birds, and reptiles, but really their biggest niche is filtering of our water,” said Shasteen
“A lot of people think of food chains versus a food web. Every animal is interconnected in an ecosystem. So, if you take out one strand of that web, mussels being a prime example, the of it starts to fall apart,” said Sladek.