Fish hatcheries are an important part of the management of fisheries. They increase the fishing opportunities for anglers all over the country. Hatcheries can assist as a fisheries management tool such as where natural reproduction may not be able to keep up with the fishing pressure, or where stunting is an issue. By stocking fish that are large enough to avoid predation, the population dynamics can be more balanced.
Many fish hatcheries have visitor’s centers or give tours. This is a great way for kids to learn about the life cycle of fish, fish identification, and various management and habitat issues. The Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan, Michigan is conducting weekend tours (free!) until the third weekend of November. This hatchery raises such species as steelhead, Chinook salmon, lake sturgeon, muskellunge, and walleye for inland waters and the Great Lakes.
Besides the mounted fish in the visitor’s center and interactive displays, kids are fascinated by tanks and raceways loaded with fish. Check with the hatchery ahead of time and try to find feeding times. Water churned by a feeding frenzy always makes my kids want to grab their poles and head to the lake after a hatchery visit.
The Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery also has a display pond with large fish. Other hatcheries, like the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center may have a casting pond where visitors can fish and even gain casting instructions all year.
The Rathbun Fish Hatchery near Moravia, Iowa gives year- round tours, but be sure to call or check online status of the hatchery you want to visit first, as this is not the case with all hatcheries. For Pennsylvania state fish hatcheries, fall is more of a time for maintenance and prepping for the next season. However on April 5th, 2014, the Linesville State Fish Hatchery in Northwestern, Pennsylvania will have an Open House. This yearly event draws almost 3000 attendees. This event is already on our calendar.
Even when we are not fishing, my family loves to visit any place they can just see fish. How about yours?
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Pennsylvania. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.