Each year the Division of Wildlife stocks Ohio waters with more than 30 million fish raised in our six state fish hatcheries
. A variety of fishes are stocked depending upon fisheries management goals and objectives. Stocking may be conducted to create, restore, enhance, or diversity fishing opportunities or re-establish an endangered or threatened species. Some of the fish stocked in Ohio waters will reproduce naturally once stocked, whereas others require routine stocking to maintain populations and fishing opportunities. The choice of the type of stocking, sizes, numbers and locations where fish are stocked are based on Division of Wildlife priorities for fisheries programs.
The most common stocking practice used by the Division of Wildlife is referred to as “put-grow-take”, where fish are stocked at sizes smaller than those that anglers would be interested in catching or keeping. These types of stockings are used to create and maintain fisheries for walleye
, yellow perch
, hybrid striped bass
, steelhead trout
, brown trout
, and muskellunge
. Habitat may limit, or prevent reproduction of some species in these waters, such as walleye
, yellow perch
, channel catfish
, brown trout
, and muskellunge
, so routine stocking becomes a necessary part of the management strategy to create and maintain fishing opportunities. Other species, such as saugeye
(a hybrid between walleye
) and hybrid striped bass
(a hybrid between striped bass
and white bass
) rarely occur in natural conditions, but given their suitability to Ohio waters, they are annually stocked to create and maintain fisheries.
Another common type of stocking is referred to as “put-and-take”, which differs from “put-grow-take”, because fish stocked with this approach are of sizes that anglers are immediately interested in catching and would consider keeping. Examples of “put-and-take” stocking include rainbow trout stocked during spring and fall in lakes around the state
, channel catfish stocked in wildlife area ponds for youth fishing events, and hybrid sunfish stocked at the State Fair in the ODNR youth fishing pond. The Division’s expectation of most “put-and-take” fishing opportunities is that these fish will be caught shortly after they are stocked.
A less common practice is to stock fish to establish a new population or “restart” a population where a reservoir has been drained for repair, renovated, or newly created. In such cases, largemouth bass
, or channel catfish
may be stocked to create or restore naturally reproducing populations. This approach is less common than either the “put-grow-take” or “put-and-take” methods and is used only when a specific need must be addressed. One example would be the restocking of Tar Hollow Lake during 2010. This lake had to be drained to address facility issues during the previous year.
The least common fish stocking practice by the Division of Wildlife is “restoration”, used to re-establish or bolster a population of threatened or endangered species. The potential for success of this approach is often rather limited due to the constraints of habitat quality. Degraded habitat is typically responsible for the status of such species; therefore successful restoration is unlikely unless habitat has substantially improved. Ohio has 23 endangered and 13 threatened fish species
Sizes and numbers of fish stocked depend upon the purpose for a fisheries program and hatchery capacity. The sizes of fish stocked are often referred to as “stages”, which are related to their age and development. The stages of fish typically stocked by the Division of Wildlife are:
- Fry – newly hatched fish that have just completed absorbing their nutrient-rich egg sac, and are typically a few days or more old and less than ½-inch. When stocked, fry are ready to start feeding on plankton or other small organisms.
- Fingerlings- depending upon the species, these fish are typically three to six weeks old and about 1 ½ to 2 inches. When stocked, fingerlings are ready to feed on insects, or, in the case of fish-eating fishes such as walleye or saugeye, small fish such as newly hatched gizzard shad.
- Advanced Fingerlings- muskellunge are the only advanced fingerlings presently stocked by the Division of Wildlife. At the time of stocking, they are over 4 months old and 8-12 inches, and ready to feed on fish such as gizzard shad.
- Yearlings- these are fish in their second growing season that have been raised in the hatchery to larger sizes to improve their survival when stocked. Channel catfish are often stocked as yearlings at 8-12 inches when they are large enough to avoid predation by bass and ready to feed on a variety of items.
- Catchables- these are larger fish raised for “put-and-take” fishing opportunities, typically rainbow trout, channel catfish, or hybrid sunfish. Sizes may vary, but they are older fish that have been kept in the hatchery more than one year and will be ready for anglers to harvest as soon as they are stocked.
Decisions about where the Division of Wildlife stocks fish depends upon habitat and prey resources of a water body, purposes for specific fisheries programs, track records for successful stockings, and sometimes geography. Sportfish stocking programs are designed to provide a variety of opportunities throughout Ohio that are suitable for our habitats and of interest to anglers. The diversity of programs created by stocking not only expands opportunities available to anglers, but allows fishing pressure from Ohio anglers to be distributed among a variety of waters and for different types of fish.