If there’s one thing you don’t want to forget when you visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Castalia Fish Hatchery, it’s the food. Fish food, that is. Like bread, crackers, popcorn and cereal. If you can toss it in the water, it’s likely the fish will eat it. The best treats are the ones that float, so that visitors can get good glimpses of the bright, beautiful trout and their feeding frenzies in the crystal-clear waters.
The hatchery is open all year, and is ground zero for Ohio’s efforts to raise steelhead salmon and rainbow trout.
The hatchery is also home to a bald eagle nesting site, which means a small portion of the hatchery is closed for a time between late winter and early summer. But fear not, the sleek, brightly colored fish, dappled with black spots, are always present.
The 90-acre hatchery is located several miles from Ohio Route 2 and Sandusky Bay. Before a new enclosed raceway building was built in 2011, the waters were sometimes raided by eagles, osprey, herons, egrets, raccoons and other hungry critters, which sometimes sneaked through protective netting. A live fish-cam is available, so visitors can get a cool underwater shot of the fish in real time.
“About half the people come to see the ‘blue hole,’ and the other half come to see the fish,” said Andrew Jarrett, who oversees the operation.
The hatchery’s blue hole is a 40-foot deep pond that taps into a deep aquifer, pumping out thousands of gallons of water per minute.
While most folks come to the hatchery to see the fish and the blue hole, many come to get exercise walking along the winding roads along the various waterways. And, Jarrett said, some come to have wedding photos taken among the beautiful scenery.
And others come to fish. Yep, the hatchery features fly-fishing clinics for anglers of all aptitudes. Participants are drawn through a lottery. Lottery drawings are also held for opportunities to fish the waters using any method. Catching the limit of fish is pretty much a sure bet!
When temperatures drop extremely low, the constant 50-degree water never freezes, and in fact, often produces a beautiful steam – making winter a great time to visit.
Five other hatcheries are open to the public as well: London (Madison County,) Kincaid (Pike County,) St. Mary’s (Auglaize County,) Hebron (Licking County,) and Senecaville (Guernsey County.)
Ohio hatches many species including muskellunge, yellow perch, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, largemouth bass, saugeye and brown trout.
For more information, call (419) 684-7499. The hatchery is located at 7018 Homegardner Rd., Castalia 44824.