“Many men go fishing all of their
lives without knowing that it
is not fish they are after.”
Henry David Thoreau
Driving along Crooked Lake’s shoreline on US-31 you’ll note the Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center sign welcoming travelers to visit. The driveway intersects the North Western State bike trail which was once a part of the railway that the fishery used to transport their stock. Adjacent to the parking lot and the Oden Visitor’s Center is the replica railcar that visitors can tour and learn more.
The visitor’s center was built in 1920. Then, it was used as the original hatchery on the property. In the early 1900s, hatcheries were the main rehabilitating technique used by biologists to help support our Great Lakes and inland fish populations. Hatcheries raise fish from eggs and then transport them and stock them in waterways.
A newer hatchery was built in 2002. (View a map of the grounds below.) It’s here that the tour begins, at the gazebo. Tours happen twice daily during peak season. Call the visitor’s center to confirm at 231-348-0998.
The visitor’s center offers a wonderful gift shop which is operated by the Friends of the Oden Fish Hatchery. The proceeds go toward sponsoring educational activities on the grounds.
The expansive grounds allow you to do self and guided tours. You can head to the ponds and feed the fish, check out the railcar, or walk through the hatcheries with a guide. There is a phenomenal exhibit cut along the riverbank to view the natural habitat in the river. This is also a part of the Sunset Coast Birding Trail. Check out the approx. two miles of nature trails to see the three spring-fed ponds which ultimately empty into Crooked Lake.
The hatchery rears brown and rainbow trout which are used to stock our inland and Great Lakes. Millions of eggs are harvested from the over 15,000 “broodstock” (or as the hatchery calls them, “the mamas and the papas”).
There are five wells on the property. (It takes a lot of water to raise and transport fish!) The wells can pump 1,000 gallons of cold water per minute but it needs to be treated before the fish will take to it. Because ground water has large amounts of nitrogen and very little oxygen, the water is injected with oxygen and nitrogen is released, to grow healthy fish. When the water is eventually too dirty for the fish, it is used as a fertilizer for farmers.