Fish and Aquatic Conservation


Enjoy a Winter Visit to a National Fish Hatchery

A snowy scene of a fishing dock overlooking a pond with the sun reflecting from the water.
Rainbow trout pond at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Photo credit: Angela Baran/USFWS.

Don’t let the cold weather keep you indoors. Visit a National Fish Hatchery and enjoy the winter activities they have to offer. From peaceful and scenic to fun and strenuous, there is a little something for everyone.

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

A line of people snowshoeing in the falling snow.
Snowshoe tours are provided December, January, and February at Leavenworth hatchery- if there is enough snow. Photo courtesy Upper Valley Christian School
Horses pulling a sled across a snow covered field
Dashing through the hatchery snow in a one, or two horse open sleigh. Photo credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

Winter is a great time to visit Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in Washington. There are juvenile fish on station to see, you can learn about hatchery operations, and enjoy a guided snowshoe tour with snowshoes provided by the Wenatchee River Institute. Of course, what’s winter without a sleigh ride? Rides are available on the hatchery property by contacting a local outfitter.

A wooden sign that indicates the distance from a trail head to certain points on the trail for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Leadville National Fish Hatchery is a place for all seasons. Photo courtesy LeadvilleToday.com.

At Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Colorado, you can enjoy two winter favorites, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Once you park your car at the hatchery, head over to the information kiosk. Here you can find copies of Leadville’s trail system maps. Enjoy the trails but remember your point of entry is just below 10,000 feet in elevation where the weather and conditions can change in a matter of minutes. Plan accordingly and let someone know what route you’re taking and what your expected return time will be.

Two cross-country skiers in the distance making their way up a tree lined, snow covered trail.
Cross country skiers enjoy the beauty of our Service lands on the Simpson Trail at Iron River National Fish Hatchery. Photo credit: USFWS.

The Simpson Trail System at Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin is an excellent place to enjoy the outdoors. Three miles of trails meander throughout the 1,200-acre forest of hardwoods and conifers.  The trails are maintained year-round and hatchery staff groom the trail system during the winter for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trail system provides a unique perspective into the winter landscape of the Northland.

Along the trail system, chances are good you might see tracks from white-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes, squirrels, snowshoe hares, turkeys, and grouse.

Wildlife and Bird Watching

A green head mallard duck with a dusting of snow on its back swimming in a pond.
Mallard ducks are frequent visitors to some fish hatcheries. Photo credit: April Gregory/USFWS
A small flock of turkeys looking for winter food.
Turkeys looking for winter food at D.C. Booth. Photo credit: Carlos Martinez/USFWS

Not only do national fish hatcheries work with diverse fish and aquatic species populations, but most of the properties also have wildlife and bird viewing opportunities. Because of ponds and other areas where fish are kept, hatcheries can be a water source as well as a place to catch a tasty fish snack for birds and wildlife.

When you visit D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in South Dakota, be on the lookout for eagles, turkey, geese, deer, ducks, and other wildlife that frequent the property.

Fresh tire track in the snow heading up to a hatchery building.
Tire tracks across the fresh snow at Berkshire. Photo credit: Aubrey Curley/USFWS
A bobcat track in the snow.
Bobcats are just one of many species of wildlife that could be seen near the hatchery. Photo credit: Steve Gifford

Berkshire National Fish Hatchery is a special place located in the woods of Monterey, Massachusetts. The hatchery is situated on 148 acres of forested land and is home to many species of wildlife. Don’t be surprised to see deer, black bear, bobcat, raccoons, rabbits, turkeys, and possibly an occasional moose, or at least their tracks, on the hatchery property.

Amazing Views

Buildings and structures where fish are kept in the foreground with snowcapped mountain peaks in the background.
Forest and mountain view from Quilcene National Fish Hatchery, Washington. Photo credit: USFWS.

Mountains, hills, forests, streams, or ponds can be seen on or near most hatchery properties. At Quilcene National Fish Hatchery in Washington, the views are amazing every direction you look. Not only is there a great view of the Olympic National Forest but winter is the time of year to observe both eggs and fry, or newly hatched fish. There could also be some adult coho still spawning in the side channel adjacent to the hatchery grounds. Eagles will be winging their way up and down the course of the Big Quilcene River, feeding on the carcasses of these late running coho, and often perched in the trees on and near the hatchery grounds. There are common mergansers on the main river, great blue herons prowling the shallows, and American dippers plying their trade among the shoreline and from the little islands created by the tops of exposed rocks.

Swans and ducks swimming in a pond with snow covered land and mountains in the background.
Seven swans a swimming and a few ducks too, on Jackson fish hatchery’s pond. Photo credit: Liz Sunshine/USFWS

Looking for a spectacular view while fishing in the bitter Wyoming cold? Then Jackson National Fish Hatchery is for you. The hatchery is in a valley between the Gros Ventre and Teton mountain ranges, so views they've got! The hatchery pond is available year-round for fishing. In the winter, visitors frequently see trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and a variety of waterfowl.

Fishing

Young person all bundled up ice fishing on a frozen pond and looking into the hole drilled in the ice.
Fishing can be fffffffun, even in the winter. Photo credit: USFWS

No matter the time of year, whether standing on a creek bank or frozen lake, fishing can be a fun and memorable experience. Several national fish hatcheries allow fishing but please call or check their websites for those that provide fishing opportunities.

A photo of a creek meandering along the edge of a wooded area with snow covered bank and trees.
It can be a winter wonderland, even in Georgia! Snow covered Rock Creek offers trout fishing and is a hatchery winter attraction.
Photo: Crystal Thomas/USFWS

Trout fishing is a year-round event at Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Georgia. During the wintertime, anglers enjoy trout fishing even when it is snowing, in beautiful Rock Creek which runs through the hatchery grounds. Another wintertime attraction, as soon as the first forecast for snow hits the news, the hatchery phone starts ringing from folks that want to visit from the Atlanta area and other southeast states. Beautiful scenes of snow-covered trees and mountain tops, and snow bordered streams offer many photo opportunities. Other wintertime fun includes group tours and hiking the nearby Appalachian and Benton McKaye Trails.

A photo of a paved road leading into a wooded area with a dusting of snow on the ground.
Another beautiful day at Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery, Vermont. Visitors could picnic, feed fish in the display pool, or take a tour of the hatchery. Photo credit: Shane Hanlon/USFWS

Note: While many hatcheries are open to the public, call ahead before you visit.

National Fish Hatchery System

Since 1871 we have improving recreational fishing and restoring aquatic species that are in decline or at risk. Across the country our network of national fish hatcheries and conservation offices work with states and tribes to conserve, restore and enhance the fish and aquatic resources of America for future generations. More than one million people visit a national fish hatchery every year to fish, hunt, hike, go birdwatching, and simply enjoy the outdoors. Find a hatchery near you.

Story by Denise Wagner, Outreach/Education for the Fish and Aquatic Conservation program.