I love fish hatcheries. Love them. Cement lined tanks full of little fish and big fish? Count me in! I grew up not far from the Harrietta Fish Hatchery and lived near the Paris Fish Hatchery for a number of years. It’s a great way to get kids interested in identifying different species of fish and for them to understand the management that goes into keeping our beautiful state stocked with enough fish for everyone to enjoy. Plus, there’s just something about popping a quarter into a gumball machine, getting a handful of fish food to toss into the pond and watching them go crazy! It’s like being a kid again, and I want my kids to have that same joyful experience.
The Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan is just 6 miles off U.S. 131 from the M-43 exit. We were on our way to Indiana and decided to take a pit stop and entertain the kids for a few minutes. I had no idea how amazing this place is! Just be warned, there is a large parking area just for school buses so I’m thinking a lot of school groups go there for field trips. The visitor center is very extensive. The lobby area has fantastic displays with information about invasive species and native fishes. The theater has a tank with sturgeon fry so you can examine them up close. They have a movie available to watch but we didn’t have time. The museum has some great interactive touch screens about fish, fishing and the history of fish stocking. My favorite part was the display about transporting fish on trains. My 3 and 5 year old girls were very interested in everything.
At the main desk, each visitor can ask for a free token to get a handful of fish food for the Show Pond. We got our tokens, bought a few things from the souvenir shop and headed out the back door to the pond. Since it was a cold and blustery fall morning, the fish hadn’t been fed much so they were excited to get some pellets. My girls were running back and forth on the dock to make sure all the fish got some food. We didn’t venture out along their trails but we plan to come back when the weather is warmer and we have more time. Like a whole afternoon!
We picked up a flyer for their extensive program calendar and chatted with the park rangers for a bit while we were inside. They have everything going on there! Hunter safety classes, nature hikes, birding activities, tours, fishing days and more- this fall. In the spring and summer, they have scavenger hunts, geocaching days and more. Most of their programs are free!