Construction of the Richard Clay Bodine State Fish Hatchery was completed in May 1983. This hatchery produces Skamania steelhead trout, Little Manistee steelhead trout and Coho salmon, as well as early rearing of rainbow trout.
Skamania are a summer-run strain of steelhead and Little Manistee are a winter-run strain. Coho are a fall-run strain of salmon. Rainbow trout are hatched and raised to about four inches before they are transferred to the Curtis Creek Trout Rearing Station. Trout and salmon stocked into the St. Joseph River are part of a cooperative fish management program involving the Indiana and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources.
In 1981, a lease agreement was signed by the American Electric Power Company and the Indiana DNR for a 10.9-acre land tract now serving as the hatchery site. The St. Joseph River Trout and Salmon Project also included the construction of four fish passage facilities, two in Indiana. These fish ladders enable fish to move freely throughout the lower 63 miles of river, from Lake Michigan upstream to the base of the Twin Branch Dam in Mishawaka. This project helped establish a world class trout and salmon fishery on the Indiana stretch of the St. Joseph River and provides additional fishing opportunities in a region lacking public fishing waters.
- Fish Culture
Skamania strain steelhead trout originate from the Pacific Northwest and was first introduced by Indiana DNR to Lake Michigan in 1975. For five years, eggs were imported from the Skamania State Fish Hatchery in Washougal, Washington before Indiana DNR initiated its own broodstock collection program. Until this hatchery was built, Skamania were exclusively reared at the Mixsawbah State Fish Hatchery in LaPorte County.
These fish typically begin their spawning migration in June, about four months earlier than their winter-run counterpart. Peak migration occurs in September. Both summer-run and winter-run steelhead spawn late winter/early spring before returning to Lake Michigan. Other characteristics which sets Skamania apart from their winter-run cousin are their long slender body and acrobatic antics when hooked. These qualities make the Skamania one of the most sought after prizes by anglers.
Little Manistee Steelhead
Steelhead were first introduced to Lake Michigan in the late 1800s and originated from the northwest coast. After decades of releasing hatchery-reared fish, some steelhead populations became naturalized in many streams and rivers. The Little Manistee River has one of these naturally reproducing populations and is the source of eggs for Indiana. This winter-run strain of steelhead will begin their spawning migration as early as October. Peak migration will be late winter. Spawning will be late winter/early spring at the same time as Skamania.
The first successful stocking of Coho into a Great Lakes tributary was in 1966. They were released into the Platte River south of Traverse City, Michigan. Also native to the Pacific Northwest, Coho were introduced to revitalize a sport fishing program and take advantage of an overpopulation of alewife, a prey fish, in Lake Michigan. The project led to the modern-day Great Lakes trout and salmon programs enjoyed by all Great Lakes states and Ontario. Indiana DNR obtains its Coho as eggs from the Platte River. Their spawning migration begins in September with peak migration in October. Spawning will occur in October and November.
Indiana’s Inland Trout Program begins in early winter with the purchase of rainbow trout eyed-eggs from a private hatchery in Washington. These fast-growing rainbow trout are held at Bodine until late spring before they are transferred to the Curtis Creek Trout Rearing Station.
Natural reproduction from adult trout and salmon in the St. Joseph River is inadequate to maintain a self-sustaining fishery, so the hatchery operation is necessary to complete the missing link in the life cycle of these fish. Newly stocked steelhead trout and Coho salmon have the ability to imprint on environmental clues from their surroundings as a form of memory. They recall this information as adults to return to their home stream years later. This unique trait allows fishery managers to collect migrating adults when they return to spawn. Bodine depends on other entities for rainbow trout, Coho salmon and Little Manistee steelhead eggs. Indiana DNR maintains its own Skamania steelhead broodstock program. In cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, adult summer-runs are collected from a sea lamprey barrier on Trail Creek in Michigan City. They are transported to the hatchery and placed in two large broodstock raceways. These raceways will serve as maturing tanks for three- to four-year-old Skamania steelhead broodstock. Those broodstock will produce future generations of summer-run steelhead reared at Bodine and Mixsawbah State Fish Hatcheries.
- Hatchery System
Water for the hatchery comes from one of two alternately run deep wells. Each well is rated for 750 gallons per minute (gpm).
Eggs are placed into special screened trays for incubation. About 10,000 to 14,000 eggs are loaded into each tray. The hatchery has 18, eight-tray incubator stacks. Each stack receives five gallons of water per minute. Egg incubation time depends upon the species cultured and water temperature. Normally, hatching occurs in about 30-40 days. After hatching, the fry use yolk stored in their sac as a food supply for about 20 days.
Small fry, known as swim-ups, are transferred to concrete linear raceways when they have nearly absorbed their yolk sac and are strong enough to swim freely. From this moment until the fish are released from the hatchery, they are carefully fed specialized high protein diets. Initial feed training is extremely important in their lives. Frequent feedings from the automatic feeders suspended above each raceway increase the success for these fish to accept food they would not find in nature.
Fingerlings are transferred to outside circular ponds shortly after they reach 2 inches. Initially, they occupy only a small portion of the rearing area. As the fish grow, they are split into additional ponds to provide adequate space and oxygen. Each day, automatic feeders are filled with the proper size and quantity of feed. Feed adjustments continue until the fish reach stocking size. Although stocking strategies may change, typically there is a small number of fish stocked in the fall while the majority are released early spring. Regardless of the time of year these fish are planted, they will imprint to their stocking waters (smoltification) in late spring before migrating to Lake Michigan.
These tanks hold the adult Skamania steelhead described in the Egg Sources section under the Fish Culture tab. The collection period for bringing these future spawners to the hatchery will depend on water temperatures in Trail Creek and Lake Michigan. Typically, broodstock are harvested from late June through mid-to-late August. The hatchery’s goal is to fill these tanks with 700 fish, 450 will be female and 250 will be male. The differentiation between the two sexes is with the shape of the head. Females have a shorter, more rounded snout, while males have a longer and somewhat pointed snout. Eggs are taken once a week from early January through mid-February. About a month after the last group of eggs is collected, surviving adults are released into the St. Joseph River.
Bodine operates on a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS). At peak capacity, about 3750 gpm is needed to keep all the fish alive. To accommodate this need, an elaborate filter system is required to clean used water from the linear raceways and circular ponds. The filter uses naturally occurring good bacteria that live in a bed of a man-made rock known as haydite. This six-cell biofilter system removes waste products from the hatchery’s production water supply, allowing it to be recirculated by high capacity pumps.
Water wasted from rearing tank and biofilter cleaning leaves the hatchery through a two-stage settling lagoon. Operation of the lagoon is similar to a primary sewage treatment plant. Oxygen levels are maintained to complete chemical and biological breakdown. A sedimentation area is provided for solids to settle out of the water column before discharge from the hatchery grounds.
- Visitor Center
Our small, interpretive lobby focuses primarily on the St. Joseph River Trout and Salmon Program. Visitors can find current fishing, hunting and recreation guides, St. Joseph River maps, and various other publications. Bird, mammal and fish displays are intended to provide visitors examples of some of the fish and wildlife found in and around the St. Joseph River.
Through the inner glass door is the inside fish culture system which serves as a nursery area for the hatchery. The incubators and indoor raceways are visible from the windows. Hanging over the raceways, visitors will see the automatic feeders. Timers will activate these feeders every 20 minutes throughout the day.
Visitation is on a self-tour basis. The public is free to roam the circular ponds, biofilters and broodstock tanks. For biosecurity reasons, the inside system is closed to the public. Prearranged guided tours are available to groups of 10 or more. These tours last about one hour and include an introduction period followed by a tour of the inside and outside systems. These tours can be scheduled Monday through Friday during regular business hours. Call the hatchery’s phone number listed above for available times. Please give us at least a ten-day notice for scheduling purposes and have alternate dates in mind.