CASTALIA, Ohio — Anglers have a longstanding reputation for stretching the truth when it comes to their trophy catch. But it’s no exaggeration to say that sport fishing in Ohio is big business. Really big.
According to 2018 estimates from the American Sport Fishing Association, the economic impact of sport fishing in Ohio was approximately $2 billion and growing. Sport fishing in the state also contributed about 16,800 jobs.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife stocks more than 40 million fish each year throughout the state and Lake Erie in an effort to improve sport fishing in Ohio. Sport fish species bred for stocking in public waters include: cold water fish (rainbow trout, brown trout), cold water fish (sageye, walleye, yellow perch and muskellunge ) and warm water fish (hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, bluegill and largemouth bass).
They operate six hatcheries to handle this task.
One such hatchery, tucked away at the end of a long, winding road in Castalia, produces the majority of stocked trout in Ohio’s waterways.
The hatchery raises fish from eggs, transferring them to larger and larger tanks until they are large enough to move up the 900-foot-long raceway that holds 40,000 feet water cubes. There they finish growing until they are ready to be collected and released statewide. The water flowing through the gutter at approximately 2,000 gallons per minute comes from a natural spring on the property called the “Blue Hole”.
Castalia Hatchery Superintendent Andy Jarrett said their program raises about 450,000 rainbow trout for Lake Erie each year.
“Rainbow trout is a huge fishery on Lake Erie,” Jarrett said.
“The Lake Erie fishery is known around the world as one of the best rainbow trout fisheries.
Rainbow trout do not spawn naturally in Lake Erie tributaries due to generally low water temperatures and oxygen levels. So Jarrett’s job is to make sure their species thrives through seeding.
The Castalia Hatchery also raises about 80,000 rainbow trout each year, which go to 65 to 70 different lakes and reservoirs across the state.
Stocking takes place from March to May most years when ideal water temperatures for stocking young fish are in the 50s.