Historical Collections of Ohio
Henry Howe LL.D.
Ohio State Fish Hatchery--
On the eastern margin of Sandusky, by the waterside, in a small
one-story frame building of two rooms, is located the Ohio State Fish
Hatchery. Small and unpretentious as the quarters are, nevertheless a
work of great importance goes on within their limits, and it is to be
hoped that our State government will take measures for the greater
development of this useful institution. With great increase in the
needs of its people, a wise government makes provision for keeping its
food supplies unimpoverished. The Ohio State Fish Hatchery was founded
some twelve years ago at Toledo. Some years later the Sandusky branch
was started, and then, owing to a cutting down of funds, that at
Toledo was closed.
The establishment at Sandusky is under the charge of Superintendent
Henry Douglass, assisted by George W. Littleton and six or seven extra
assistants engaged during the hatching seasons. But wo kinds of fish
have as yet been hatched, pickerel and white-fish; of these 65,000,000
pickerel and 100,000,000 white fish were hatched during the past
About April 1st the pickerel eggs are taken and about October 1st the
white fish eggs. These are procured from fish caught in nets on Lake
Erie. From the females (which can be distinguished by their unusual
size) the eggs are squeezed in three gallon pans (eggs from three
females to each pan). Next six male fish are picked out and the
impregnating fluid squeezed from them into the pan. Males and females
are then thrown back into the lake, and the pans containing the
impregnated eggs are taken to the hatchery.
In the larger of the two rooms of the hatchery are ranged on each side
and in the center a series of wooden troughs, and below each trough a
row of glass jars about two feet high and six or seven inches in
diameter. Above each jar is a wooden faucet connected by a rubber hose
a few inches long to a thick glass tube in the center of the jar and of
the same length as the jar. Four small "feet" at the bottom of the
tube permit the water to flow from it up through the jar to its top
where it is discharged into another, thence through other jars and so
on. The impregnated eggs are placed in these jars and the water turned
on. The water is lake water supplied from the city water works. It is
kept cold, sometimes freezing, as the eggs and the fish have to be
kept cold until placed in the streams.
After the eggs are placed in the jars they must be kept constantly
moving, and are watched night and day, that they may not adhere to each
other or the sides of the jars as soon as an egg spoils (which is
discovered by its failure to change color) it must be removed; this is
done with a feather.
At the first the eggs have a kind of cream color, from which they
change in a month to a much darker color, then in six weeks back to
their original hue, and alternate colors in that manner until hatched,
which is about two to four weeks for pickerel and five months for white
fish. When hatched the pickerel are about one quarter of an inch long
and the white fish is half an inch. Each fish is found to have a food
sack containing a viscid colorless substance which sustains its life
from three to four weeks, but what they live on after that is unknown.
In about a year they grow to weigh a pound and increase in weight each
succeeding year, until the pickerel attains a weight of fifteen to
eighteen pounds and the white fish a weight of twenty pounds.
The freshly hatched fish are given away to anyone making application for
them, the only requirement being that they be placed in some inland
stream or lake. They are put up in cans similar to milk cans and are
distributed according to order by the agents of the hatchery who travel
through all parts of the State. Pickerel only are placed in streams as
the white fish will not live in streams, but large numbers of the young
white fish have been placed in Lake Erie, resulting in an apparent
increase in the supply.
After years of effort it has been found impossible to hatch bass or
perch. The difficulty lies in obtaining the impregnating fluid from the
males, who at the season of impregnation go into deep water and defy
all efforts to capture them. Experiments have been made by keeping them
in captivity, but without avail.
The only way that lakes can be stocked with bass is to catch the young
fish with nets and transport them to where they are wanted.
This is often done. A year ago a lot of herring were hatched and placed
in some lakes east of Cleveland, and if they thrive the hatching of
herring will be made one of the features of the hatchery. Lake Erie
abounds with them. They are a small fish, weighing but a pound when
full grown, but are very good eating. Some experiments in the
propagation of cat-fish are also to be undertaken shortly.