The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

View other hatcheries in the northeast series!

Picture this: You're driving down the interstate, cruise control on, windows down, stereo blasting. It's a perfect 80 degrees, you don't have to work, and you've got the whole day ahead of you. You pull off the road and a beautiful vista lies in front of you. A pond sparkles in the sunshine, birds are chirping happily in the trees, and best of all...it's peaceful. You pop the trunk and pull out a fishing pole, that set of watercolors you've been meaning to use, your best pair of broken-in hiking boots, and breathe in the fresh summer air. But wait, where the heck are you?  

Is it a national park? If we were going on overall vibes, the answer might be yes.  

Is it a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
? Getting warmer, but think more fins.  

Is it one of the nation's most underrated outdoor destinations...national fish hatcheries? Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

The National Fish Hatchery System has been improving recreational fishing and restoring aquatic species since 1872 (uhhhh, yeah that makes them 150 years old!) and yet, lots of folks might not even know that their grounds are often open to the public and entry is FREE! The wonderful thing about fish hatcheries is that they offer something for everyone in your group...no more disgruntled sighs from the backseat! 

Each hatchery highlighted in our road trip series is over 100 years old and has four sections of information: 

🚙 Trip Highlights: This is where you'll find hatchery activity suggestions for different folks in your group. These aren't full lists, just some of the things we think are pretty cool. Before you hit the road, be sure to check each hatchery's web page for additional activities and we recommend calling ahead to check on their opening status and any possible closures. We've also got some good info on how and where to purchase a fishing license, if that's on your activity itinerary!

🚧 Detour: Is it really a road trip if you only go to one place? Well, yeah, but where's the fun in that? We've provided each hatchery with a nearby pit stop suggestion for the free spirits among us. (Full disclosure, besties: We haven't actually been to any of these spots and are in no way promoting them over other destinations, they just sound fun. Please do your research beforehand to check on fees, accessibility, travel restrictions, etc!)

🎶 Featured Song: One of the best parts of a road trip is the playlist. You probably have your own set of cool tunes, but we couldn't resist including some other suggestions for your listening pleasure!

🧭 Road Map: Ok, it's not actually a real map, but it's a fun, colorful graphic you can share online or print out for your trip! 

Buckle those seatbelts, we’re taking you on a ride through some of the nation’s oldest hatcheries that you’ll definitely want to add to your summer road trip itineraries and they are free to the public. First up in the series, hatcheries over 100 years old in the northeast! 

Visit during the right time of year and you'll find these gorgeous wildflowers at Craig Brook. This part of the hatchery property overlooks Alamoosook Lake and is a perfect Instagram photo spot if we've ever seen one!

Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery - Maine

The second oldest federal fish hatchery still operating today, Craig Brook was established in 1889 to raise and stock juvenile Atlantic salmon. Their facility supports the last remaining natural populations of Atlantic salmon in the United States and produces on average, three million eggs annually for recovery purposes only.

🚙 Trip Highlights

We don't play favorites here in Fish and Aquatic Conservation, but any angler is a friend of ours! Public use areas and boat launches provide access to Craig Pond, where you can fish for brook trout, lake trout and landlocked salmon, or to Alamoosook Lake, where you can fish for bass, pickerel, and perch.
Craig Brook really has it all. If you check out their activities page, you'll find a ton of options, from biking to cross-country skiing and everything in between. Our suggestion for the best way to explore? Go snorkeling or scuba diving! Lake Alamoosook and Craig Pond may be accessible for scuba diving and snorkeling outside of the winter months. Just be sure conditions are safe before hopping in! If water activities aren't your thing, the hatchery maintains a few miles of trails and is a great starting point to hike Great Pond Mountain!
You might think hatcheries are all about fish, but they're also prime spots for birders! From bald eagles to black-capped chickadees, birds abound at Craig Brook as the trail systems provide forested habitat and the nearby lakes offer scenic panoramic views.
History lovers, this is the spot for you! Check out the Friends of Craig Brook Atlantic Salmon Flyfishing Museum, co-located in the Visitor Center, which is currently exhibiting artwork by Arthur Taylor and 200 years of fishing in Maine.
With so many beautiful sites to see, this is a great location to bring along your DSLR or bust out some of those amazing social media filters and get to snapping! 

🚧 Detour

If you love a silly photo opportunity (who doesn't?!), head about an hour from Craig Brook to the town of Gouldsboro, Maine. This is home to “Big Jim the Fisherman,” a 40-50 foot metal cutout of a fisherman.

🎶 Featured Song

What better way to kick off a hatchery road trip than with a fishing song? Add Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby’s “Gone Fishin” to your playlist to get you in the angling mood.

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery, please call ahead for visitor hours and check out their website for even more to do during your visit. You can also download a high resolution PDF of the map!