Skip to content

Hatchery Will Carry Longtime Wildlife Worker’s Name

COFFEEVILLE – A ceremony to officially rename the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery as the Bob Tyler Fish Hatchery is scheduled for Monday, July 24, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Hatchery.

The hatchery, which sits below Enid Dam on the western side of Enid Lake, was renamed July 1, 2023 following passage of House Bill 923 by the 2023 State Legislature.

Representative Tommy Reynolds sponsored and spearheaded the bill, which garnered strong support passing unanimously. Reynolds also made sure Tyler was kept out of the loop until the bill was past the point of no return.

“He is the type of person who accomplishes great things, but he doesn’t want great publicity,” Reynolds said of Coach Tyler. “Coach simply wants to see good things happen. He has never been in it for the fame, but to help people.”

Tyler admitted he was one of the last in the state to learn about the honor. His middle son, Cam Tyler, finally had to let him in on the secret when it came time to schedule the ceremony.

“I had some clues,” he said, “One of the secretaries at the Department of Wildlife office in Jackson let a little something slip one day. When I asked her about it, she said ‘You taught me not to know things that I know.’”

Tyler, age 91, is best known for his 32-year coaching career that started in 1955 at Water Valley High School. He coached in the SEC for 10 years, including a six-year reign as the Mississippi State Bulldog head coach.  The 27th head football coach in MSU history, Tyler turned in four winning seasons with the Bulldogs, including a pair of nine-win campaigns. During the 1974 season, Tyler led the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record, including SEC wins over Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and a victory over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl.

But it is his second career – serving with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) for decades – that spawned the hatchery recognition. Admittedly, it was a career he never envisioned.

Tyler recalled he was first contacted in 1992 by Dr. Sam Polles, who started his tenure as the longest-serving Executive Director of MDWFP that same year.

“Dr. Polles and I had never met. He called me and said how about coming to work for us as director of state parks,” Tyler recalled. Tyler said he promised to consider the offer and a second call soon followed from one of Governor Kirk Fordice’s staff members.

“The governor said ‘you will take the job as director of state parks,’” the caller told Tyler.

“I said ‘I will,’” Tyler continued. “And I fell in love with the agency, it has been a great experience. I love working with the men and women across the state employed by the agency.”

Following that appointment, Tyler next served as the deputy director of MDWFP, continuing to work alongside his admired Executive Director, Polles.  Tyler continued working with and for Polles except for a brief tenure as coach at Millsaps College from 2000 to 2002. He returned to the state agency afterwards as a consultant and continues in that role.

Tyler credits his former boss, Dr. Polles, as one of the all-time greatest team builders, the same as his old coaching mentors, Johnny Vaught and Bear Bryant.  When Sam Polles retired last year, he was widely credited with guiding the state agency to many groundbreaking accomplishments for the citizens of the Magnolia State. That list of accomplishments is lengthy and includes the modernization of the department, expanding the wildlife management areas, implementing Archery in School (AIMS), building new state-of-the-art shooting facilities, the construction of the new Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and of the state office headquarters and, of course, building the hatchery.

Tyler characteristically downplays his involvement in the wildlife agency’s successes during the Polles era.  But of all the projects launched since 1992, the state-of-the-art fish hatchery and adjacent Visitor Education Center is his favorite. He explains that 12 different species are hatched for release in state-owned water. Tyler is equally proud of the adjacent Visitor’s Education Center that serves as an educational resource.

“Hundreds and hundreds of school kids visit it each year. The only thing that brings more people to Yalobusha County is the Watermelon Carnival,” Tyler explained. “The hatchery has been, in my heart, one of my favorite projects. During all those years in that other life, I didn’t know another thing could grab me. The hatchery has been a favorite of mine.”

The hatchery recognition in Tyler’s home county also follows a 15-year career that overlapped with his time at MDWFP when he served as Yalobusha County Economic Development and Tourism Director from 2007 until 2022.

“He was a wonderful ambassador for our county,” Board of Supervisors President Cayce Washington noted about Tyler’s service as economic director. “He forged strong bonds with our county’s vital industries during his tenure.”

Coach, wildlife worker or county economic director, Tyler again downplayed his role in winning games or successful projects during a conversation with the Herald Monday afternoon.

“There is probably no other person who has ever gotten as much credit as I have for projects where other people were the driving force. But I will say that this means so much to me,” Tyler added about the hatchery carrying his name. “We have never displayed a trophy or plaque (from football coaching), Dale has them packed all away in the attic. But this hatchery is very special.”

Reynolds tells a different story.

“Coach Tyler could bridge things and make them happen. People who might not ordinarily share an interest or a goal, he could bring them together,” Reynolds said.

Tyler, not known for idleness, is excited to work alongside Lynn Posey, who was appointed last September as Dr. Polles successor at MDWFP.

“I worked with him when he was a state senator, Public Service Commissioner and now executive director of the wildlife agency,” Tyler said.

The Bob Tyler Fish Hatchery hatches 12 species including the Magnolia Crappie – a cross between a female white crappie and male blackstriped black crappie. The fertilized eggs are pressure shocked to cause sterility, allowing the crappie to put more energy into growth. The Magnolia Crappie are stocked in smaller, state-owned lakes and grow larger than a normal fish. Other species hatched include northern largemouth bass, southern walleye, paddlefish, alligator gar, white crappie, black crappie, Magnolia crappie, bluegill, and redear sunfish.

Leave a Comment