Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Hatchery Produces Small Fry for Anglers ; Jake Wolf Hatchery Helps Stock Lake Mich

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Hatchery Produces Small Fry for Anglers ; Jake Wolf Hatchery Helps Stock Lake Mich

Article excerpt

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Five hundred million fish and counting. That's the estimated number of fish stocked so far by the Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery's during its 30 years in operation.

Jake Wolf, one of three state fish hatcheries, is a well-kept secret tucked away in the middle of Sand Ridge State Forest in Mason County.

Built on top of the Mahomet Aquifer, the hatchery has a steady supply of cool, 54-degree water that allows its staff of 10 to raise 15 species of fish, including hundreds of thousands of rainbow trout, brown trout, steelhead, Coho and Chinook salmon to be stocked into Lake Michigan.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources also operates the Little Grassy Fish Hatchery in Makanda and the La Salle Hatchery near Marseilles.

"We work with the district fisheries biologists to provide the species they need, the sizes they need - and the fishermen need - at the proper time they need those species and sizes so we can improve and maintain recreational fishing in Illinois," said hatchery manager Steve Krueger.

It's not as simple or as straightforward as it sounds.

Every day - 365 days a year - hatchery staff have to fill feeders and clean tanks to prevent growth of fungus and other organisms that could cause disease.

Raceways and start tanks could hold from 15,000 to 30,000 fish, so technicians have to scrub the sides of the tanks with a scratch pad and remove any dead fish and waste each morning.

"They do an amazing job," Krueger said. "I cannot stress enough the physical nature of the work they do."

The hatchery has seen its staffing numbers decline in recent years from a high of 26 to 10.

Jean Sliwa, a volunteer with Salmon Unlimited based in the Chicago area, said Illinois is fortunate to have a facility like Jake Wolf.

"I've been to other ones, including a hatchery in Alaska, and they are nothing like this one," she said. "This is beautiful; so sophisticated."

"It is a very difficult job, but culturing the animals, it is the most important job we do here," Krueger said. "Right now all the salmonids that will be stocked in Lake Michigan are in this room."

That all adds up to 105,000 rainbow trout, 157,000 brown trout, 341,000 Coho salmon and 275,000 Chinook salmon.

The fish-rearing cycle starts in the fall.

"In October, we send guys up to Michigan to help the Michigan DNR spawn Chinook and Coho, and they bring back about a million eggs of each species," Krueger said. "We get rainbows, browns from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - they come in boxes of eggs we put in incubators - and we get steelheads from Indiana."

On March 8, steelhead fry were moved from incubators to tanks.

Assistant hatchery director Tom Hays, and fish culturists Tom Blessman and Brenda Hays moved steelhead while Mark Sarti put fertilized northern pike eggs into jars for incubation. …

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