OH: Renovation project will affect trout stocking this fall

Castalia, Ohio – The annual fall stockings of rainbow trout in waterways across Ohio will be significantly reduced this year due to renovation of the Castalia State Fish Hatchery.

According to the DNR Division of Wildlife, the hatchery's renovation required temporary changes in the fish production schedule.

"Taking the Castalia State Fish Hatchery offline for fish production was a necessary part of completing this much-needed upgrade," said Ray Petering, Division of Wildlife executive administrator of Fish Management and Research. "The total number of fish available for fall stockings is 4,000 instead of the usual 25,000."

The $6 million project has been in the works for four years.

"You go through a period of time of getting it into the queue and then it pops up and it is its turn things start moving," Petering said. "Then, you go through that period of developing the plans and going over those."

The 4,000 fish will be stocked at Stonelick Lake in Clermont County on October 21, the Ohio-Erie Canal in Cuyahoga County on October 8, and Sycamore State Park Pond located in Montgomery County on October 6.

"We have, for all of our stocking programs, prioritization systems that take in lots of factors from habitat to location," Petering said. "With catchable trout, we're interested in locations near people… We didn't feel like it made sense to dribble a couple hundred fish here, there and everywhere. So, we went with the top three picks and we'll distribute the fish among those."

Renovation of the Castalia State Fish Hatchery will ensure the future of Ohio's steelhead trout fishing, as well the popular rainbow trout fishing. Facility improvements include a new building where eggs are hatched and young fish are raised, covered raceways where fish can grow to larger sizes, high-volume water pumps, and state-of-the art water quality monitors.

The hatchery renovation is expected to be completed yet this fall, allowing for the continuation of the spring steelhead and rainbow trout stocking program.

"There's actually systems testing going on right now," Petering said of the project's progress. "Most of the infrastructure is in place… We were hoping to be wrapped up this fall and that looks like it's going to be the case."

The division stocks 400,000 steelhead in the tributaries of Lake Erie and 110,000 rainbow trout in waters throughout the state each spring. All steelhead are produced at the Castalia State Fish Hatchery as well as many of the rainbow trout. Anglers can expect the numbers of rainbow trout stocked during spring 2012 to be similar to previous years. Petering said about 110,000 trout will be stocked next spring, up from the typical 80,000.

"We'll be getting steelhead from Michigan here in a couple of weeks," Petering said. "This is going to be major as far as our steelhead program goes. This really puts us in a better spot. We'll be getting a full complement of fish from Michigan. We should have our target number of 400,000 for stocking in the spring."

Consideration is being given to discontinuing to fall catchable trout stocking and just moving it all into the spring, Petering said.

"The fall program has been a lot smaller with fewer locations," he said. "The time of year when we do it is right over the top of all the hunting seasons opening. We're a little concerned about the utility of it. And, we also can't produce the same quality of fish (in the fall)."

The overall goal of the construction at Castalia is to make Ohio's steelhead program self-sufficient. Currently, Ohio gets its fish from Michigan for rearing at Castalia.

"It will open the possibility of us taking eggs of our own at some point from some of the tribs up north," Petering said.

All of this progress comes under the helm of Tim Parrett, the new hatchery administrator. Much of the Castalia work was done under the supervision of Elmer Heyob, who retired this summer.

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