Tools of the Trade: State Fish Hatcheries
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources produces more than 20 species of fish for stocking, education, and restoration projects at several fish hatcheries across Maryland, as well as the Piney Point Aquaculture Center in St. Mary’s County.
At these facilities operated by DNR’s Fishing and Boating Services Hatcheries Division, staff culture fish from egg to larval size in tanks or ponds. The fish then grow to juvenile and adult stages in ponds, raceways, tanks, or net pens. The hatcheries also maintain captive populations of fish for use as breeding stock.
The various facilities specialize in different species and hatchery methods. Cold water hatcheries such as Albert Powell Hatchery in Washington County produce hundreds of thousands of trout every year for statewide put-and-take fishing opportunities and trout population enhancement. These facilities hatch trout eggs and grow them in tanks for months until they are transferred to outdoor raceways, where the fish will continue to grow to releasable size. Keeping hatchery waters clean is key to raising healthy, pathogen-free trout.
Warm water hatcheries like Unicorn Lake Hatchery on the Eastern Shore produce dozens of fish species for various DNR projects including species restoration, stock enhancement, recreational fishing enhancement, children’s fishing rodeo stocking, and fish culture research. Hatchery staff customize propagation and culturing techniques to meet the needs of the fish species. Propagation can be as simple as stripping fertilized eggs from mature females, or can involve more complex methods such as implanting fish with a hormone delivery system to induce spawning in hatchery tanks.
Joseph Manning Hatchery, located within Cedarville State Forest in Charles County, cultures both warm and cold water species. This hatchery produces an array of species year-round for various program needs, including American and hickory shad, striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, golden shiners, rainbow trout, yellow perch, sunfish, walleye, and muskellunge. Manning Hatchery’s primary culture building consists of spawning tanks, a laboratory, culture tanks, raceways, brine shrimp culture tanks, and a tagging room for tagging fish with coded wire tags. Hatchery staff manage 29 culture ponds. Major ongoing projects include a freshwater mussel propagation project and the reintroduction of American shad and hickory shad to the Choptank and Patuxent rivers.
Piney Point Aquaculture Center is DNR’s shellfish hatchery. This facility specializes in oyster production and related services to support oyster habitat restoration projects, the aquaculture industry, the commercial fishing industry, and the Marylanders Grow Oysters program.
Want to learn more about our state hatcheries? Some facilities allow public visitation. Learn more at dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/pages/hatcheries/index.aspx.
Article appears in Vol. 26, No. 2 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine.