Senecaville State Fish Hatchery is among the nation’s best hatcheries. Each year, approximately 20 – 25 million fish are raised here by the ODNR Division of Wildlife. They supply lakes and reservoirs around Ohio, as well as six pools in the Ohio River and 10 pools in the Muskingum River.
Since approximately 1.3 million people go fishing in Ohio each year, it has become necessary to assist with the natural propagation of fish in Ohio waters. ODNR operates six fish hatcheries throughout Ohio for this purpose.
The Senecaville Fish Hatchery is located in southern Guernsey County just below the dam on beautiful Seneca Lake. Beginning as a federal hatchery in 1938, when they first raised striped bass to replenish dwindling fish supplies, the hatchery now has 37 ponds containing a total of 37 water acres. Water is supplied by Seneca Lake, which can deliver 2,000 gallons per minute.
Fish hatchery technicians, Casey Goodpaster and Josh Binkley, have been there about fifteen years each. Both have gone to college and have degrees in Parks and Recreation, and Fish Management respectively. These men do much more than care for fish as they often become mechanics, painters, welders, and mowers at the facility. They enjoy the freedom of spending much of their time outside.
This is the time of year when the fish hatchery at Seneca Lake is busiest of all. In early March, the fish hatchery collects about 300 quarts of walleye fish eggs from Mosquito Lake in the Youngstown area. This adds up to around 20–30 million eggs!
The eggs are then fertilized and about three quarts are put into each incubator tube. Water must move through the tubes constantly to keep the eggs from sticking together. It takes two to three weeks for them to hatch before moving up the tubes and into a holding tank.
Often they cross a female walleye with a male sauger to create saugeye. This is done with about fifty percent of the walleye eggs since the saugeye have a much higher survival rate. Saugeye are well suited for Ohio reservoirs and grow rapidly.
The newly hatched fish is called a ‘fry’ and is about the length of half an eyelash, according to one technician. Finally, the last juvenile stage is that of a fingerling about 15 cm long. At this time, they can be placed directly into the lake.
A little later in the year in June and July, the hatchery will be raising channel catfish. They lay their eggs in a spawn inside a can placed in the ponds. These layers of eggs are then gently moved inside to hatch in five to seven days. After being fed fish meal for about a week, they quadruple their size and are then placed in the ponds for up to a year before stocking them in lakes and streams.
When fishermen purchase rods, reels, fishing tackles, fish finders and motorboat fuel, they pay an excise tax. The federal government collects these taxes and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service distributes the funds to state fish and wildlife agencies. These funds acquire the habitat, stock the fish, provide education and develop boat accesses.
At the Senecaville Fish Hatchery, there are four full-time employees and one part-time in the summer. Employees receive annual training through workshops regarding many topics from chain saw cutting to herbicides, fish and more.
Senecaville Fish Hatchery is open to the public Monday – Friday from 10:00-3:00. This is also a great place for a group tour, especially school children, to see how the facility operates and learn more about the varieties of fish. Watch for special times when youngsters can fish at the hatchery.
The best times to view the hatchery in operation are from April through June. They will begin to get eggs in the hatchery during the month of March. A visit to the Senecaville Fish Hatchery would be a great family experience.
Senecaville Fish Hatchery is located on beautiful Seneca Lake in Guernsey County with easy access from I-77 exit 37. Take OH 313 east about six miles and turn right on OH 574. The hatchery is on the right-hand side.