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ST. MARYS — When people pay for fishing and hunting licenses, they may wonder where that money goes. Part of it ends up at the St. Marys Fish Hatchery on Ohio 364 raising fish straight from the eggs to stock fish for Grand Lake St. Marys, but also to populate lakes all over the state, from Mosquito Lake to the east, Clendening Lake to the south and as far north as Olander Lake.
The hatchery welcomed visitors Saturday, inviting them to learn how the fish are raised, try out archery, have food and to let children catch a few fish.
Raising fish, explained Mort Pugh, Superintendent of St. Marys Fish Hatchery, is a process that begins with a boat that can send an electric charge into lake water that both attracts and stuns fish.
The unconscious fish float to the top of the water where they’re caught with a net and put into a tub. The walleye at the hatchery are bred from walleye in Berlin, while the saugeye come from fish in the Maumee River.
Once the fish are collected, the females are stripped of eggs, and the eggs are mixed with the milt collected from the males.
The fertilized eggs are stored in 3 quart jars flush with well water at a temperature of 53-54 degrees. They’re disinfected every day with formaldehyde to keep fungus at bay. When they hatch, they’re moved to a tank for three to four days where they don’t need to be fed because they have a membrane still covering their mouth.
“It’s really critical to stop at the right time,” Pugh said. “Once the membrane flakes off, they’re very cannibalistic.”
At the fish hatchery Saturday, Pugh estimated there were 50 to 60 million fish at various stages of development.
When the fish are ready, St. Marys Fish Hatchery representative PJ Fought said a special truck drives them all over the state to stock lakes for fishing. No private ponds are stocked, and no one pays for the fish, since the process of raising them is funded by fishing and hunting licenses.
“It’s a way to give back,” Fought said.