St. Joseph River Project
Construction of the Richard Clay Bodine State Fish Hatchery was completed in May 1983. This hatchery produces 275,000 Skamania steelhead trout and 90,000 coho salmon. The Skamania or summer run steelhead are released into the St. Joseph River while coho are stocked into Trail Creek in Michigan City, Indiana. Steelhead 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 40-year 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 Project also included the construction of four fish passage facilities. 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, Indiana. Establishing a world class trout and salmon fishery on the St. Joseph River in Indiana provides additional fishing opportunities in a region lacking public fishing waters.
- Fish Culture
The Skamania strain steelhead trout comes from the Pacific Northwest. This summer-run variety of steelhead was first introduced by Indiana to Lake Michigan in 1975. For five years eggs were imported from the Skamania State Fish Hatchery in Washougal, Washington. Indiana then 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 is their long slender body and acrobatic antics when hooked. These qualities make the Skamania one of the most sought after prizes by anglers.
Broodstock Race Ways
Since natural reproduction from adult trout and salmon in the St. Joseph River is inadequate to maintain a self-sustaining fishery, 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 environmental clues from their surroundings into a form of memory. They recall this information as adults to return to their home stream years later. This unique trait (smoltification) allows fishery managers to collect migrating adults when they return to spawn. These raceways will serve as maturing tanks for three to four year old Skamania steelhead broodstock harvested from the South Bend Fish Ladder. They were chosen to parent future generations of summer-run steelhead reared at this hatchery and Mixsawbah State Fish Hatchery. Be careful around these tanks please. Your future fishing success is dependent upon healthy broodstock.
- Water System
Steelhead and coho are transferred to these outside circular ponds shortly after they reach 2-inches in length. 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. Coho are stocked late October as a 6-inch fish. About 80,000 steelhead are released mid November at 6-1/2 inches. This practice allows the remaining 195,000 steelhead to reach a 7-1/2-inch size the following mid-April when they are released from the hatchery. Regardless of the time of year these fish are planted, they will imprint to their stocking waters (smoltification) late spring before migrating to Lake Michigan.
An elaborate water supply system has been developed at the hatchery. Water is supplied to the hatchery from one of two alternately used deep wells. Pumping rate exceeds 700 gallons per minute. However, at peak water demand, the hatchery requires more than 4000 gpm. To accomplish this, waste water from production tanks is purified for re-use through bio-filters. Two feet of expanded shale media helps remove waste products from the used water, allowing it to be recycled. Each bio-filter is cleaned by backwashing once each week.
All waste water leaving the hatchery must pass through the aerated sewage lagoon. Operation of the lagoon is similar to a primary wastewater treatment plant. Oxygen levels are maintained to complete chemical and biological breakdown. A sedimentation area is provided to settle solids before discharge from the hatchery grounds.
- Visitor Center
This small, interpretive lobby focuses primarily on the St. Joseph River Trout and Salmon Program. Visitors can find up to date fishing regulations, St. Joseph River maps, and various other IDNR publications. Avian mammal and fish displays are intended to provide visitors examples of some of the 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. To the far right are incubators. After eggs have been removed from females and artificially fertilized, hatchery staff will place them into special screened trays for incubation. About 10 to 14,000 eggs are loaded into each tray. The hatchery has 18, 8-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 utilize yolk stored in a sac as a food supply for about 20 days.
Steelhead trout or coho salmon are transferred to the 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 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.
Bodine State Fish Hatchery
13200 Jefferson Blvd
Mishawaka, IN 46545