Approximately 1.3 million people go fishing each year in Ohio. Recreational sport fishing also contributes an estimated $1 billion annually to Ohio's economy. With the changes in the use of water and the increase in fishing, the state of Ohio, and the United States as a whole, has had to assist with the natural propagation of fish in Ohio's waters.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) operates six fish hatcheries throughout Ohio. These include Hebron (Licking County); Senecaville (Guernsey County); St. Marys (Auglaize County); London (Madison County); Kincaid (Pike County); and Castalia (Erie County).
In the early spring, ODNR staff goes to lakes and collects adult females with eggs. These eggs are then "milked" from the fish and taken to the fish hatcheries. The eggs are placed in incubating containers until they hatch. The newly hatched fry are kept in indoor tanks until they have absorbed their yolk sacs and they begin feeding. By the time they are fingerlings, they are ready to be moved to outdoor rearing ponds. They are fed daily a diet which will promote healthy growth and development. Once the fish have reached a predetermined size, the ponds are drained and the fish are loaded into a fish hauling truck and released in lakes and streams throughout Ohio.
Species of fish which are raised in hatcheries include: walleye; saugeye; bluegills; striped bass; hybrid striped bass; channel catfish; rainbow, brown and golden trout; and muskellunge. Each of these are released in massive numbers. In July, 1999, 10.8 million walleyes and saugeyes alone were released in Ohio's inland lakes.
One of the oldest fish hatcheries in the nation, Put-In-Bay in Lake Erie, no longer raises fish. The Ohio Division of Wildlife now operates an aquatic resource visitor center there. This education facility offers island visitors a chance to learn about Lake Erie's aquatic environment.
Visitors are welcome to tour the visitor center or any Ohio state fish hatchery.