Fawn River State Fish Hatchery
6889 N. SR 327
Orland, IN 46776
Hours: 8 am - 4:30 pm, M-F.
Fawn River Fish Hatchery is located one mile north of the town of Orland on S.R. 327. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The District 2 Fish Management Biologist’s office is also located at Fawn River State Fish Hatchery. The property grounds are open to the public from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week.
FISH PRODUCTION FACILITIES
In 1933, the Orland Conservation Club constructed a fish rearing pond in an old mill race north of town. Later, this modest fish rearing facility was to become one of Indiana’s larger fish hatcheries.
On April 25, 1935, the Orland town board purchased a tract of land adjacent to the mill race. Part of the land was to be used for the construction of a fish hatchery and the balance for a park and recreation area. Labor and part of the funds for improving the property were obtained from the FERA, a federal relief agency. The remaining funds were obtained from the town coffers. The hatchery, completed in 1937, was called the Orland Fish Hatchery and consisted of four earthen ponds ranging in size from 2.07 to 3.37 acres. The town treasury was reimbursed by the Department of Conservation (now called the Department of Natural Resources) for fish reared by the conservation club and stocked into public waters.
November 6, 1939, the town board and the Orland Conservation Club donated the hatchery to the state of Indiana, and it was immediately expanded on land purchased by the DNR. Six more rearing ponds were constructed, bringing the total water area to 23.54 acres. Today, the hatchery known as the Fawn River State Fish Hatchery consists of 14 ponds. The ponds have a total surface area of nearly 22.5 acres of water and are situated on a 43-acre parcel of land. In addition, the hatchery has six indoor tanks used for rearing and holding fish, two egg incubation units, a service/office building and a residence building for the manager.
FISH CULTURE AND PRODUCTION
Since 1942, Fawn River State Fish Hatchery has annually produced hundreds of thousands of fingerling fish. Originally, largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill and redear were the major game species produced in the hatchery’s ponds. Currently, fish production has shifted toward walleye and northern pike, as well as channel catfish.
Walleye and northern pike are produced from eggs obtained from adult fish. The adults are collected from area lakes and rivers, brought to the hatchery and spawned. The eggs are then incubated in jars until hatching occurs. At this point, the methods of rearing these two species change. The northern pike remain indoors in several linear rearing tanks and are fed an artificial diet developed for the intensive production of predator fish. The pike are fed daily at five-to 10-minute intervals and will reach a size of 8 inches before being stocked in late October.
The newly hatched walleye, however, are stocked into earthen rearing ponds which have been heavily fertilized to promote natural food production. The walleye forage on the abundant food supply and obtain a length of nearly 2 inches in about 40 days. At this time, the fish are taken from the ponds and stocked into area lakes.
Once the walleye are removed in June, the ponds are refilled and prepared for producing later spawning fish species such as channel catfish, fathead minnows and bass. These fish are not spawned at the hatchery (with the exception of the fathead minnows; but are transferred from other state fish hatcheries for the purpose of additional growth before being stocked in late September or October. Transfer of fish between hatcheries allows many fish species to be produced at the various hatcheries throughout the state.
One common question asked by many visitors is, “What do you do during the winter months after the ponds have been emptied and all your fish are stocked?” It may appear that the hatchery is dormant during these months, but in actuality there are many activities taking place. Several ponds remain full during the winter and are holding fish despite the ice cover. Since the ponds are generally shallow, it is necessary to keep close tabs on dissolved oxygen concentrations in the ponds to ensure that levels remain high enough to sustain fish life. The rainbow trout is one species of fish that is over-wintered at Fawn River. They require high oxygen concentrations. To maintain favorable conditions for over-wintering fish, river water is flushed through the ponds throughout the winter.
Also during the winter, it is necessary to write production successes and failures from the past production season. Within these reports are cost figures associated with the production of each species. Preparation for the coming production season is also an important activity during the winter. Plans are drawn up for pond use, fertilizer needs, chemical needs and equipment needs. These needs are fulfilled through meetings with other hatchery personnel and through state purchasing channels.
One other very important activity during the winter months is the reconditioning of all the equipment used during the past production season to ensure proper function during the upcoming season. This includes maintenance on trucks, harvesting equipment, tractors, lawnmowers and pumps.
Please feel free to walk the grounds and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the hatchery. Information signs are located near each production pond and offer a brief description of the fish being raised and some culture techniques incorporated in their production. Visual observation is nearly impossible due to the small size of the fish and the turbid water conditions. While walking the grounds, be sure to observe the many forms of wildlife present. Songbirds and shore birds are plentiful, and Canada geese are common. During June and July, several broods of wild geese can be seen grazing on the grass-covered levees.
Fishing is permitted in the Fawn River along the entire hatchery boundary, excluding the area behind the manager’s residence. Fish species frequently caught along this stretch of river include bluegill, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, rock bass, longear sunfish, bullhead and carp. Trout are also stocked below the dam and offer excellent fishing from late April through early June.