CASTALIA, Ohio -- Cold water. Rainbow trout love it. Steelhead love it, and they both must have it to survive.
The network of blue holes that every day push millions of gallons of near-50-degree water out of the earth near here and send it into Sandusky Bay offer just the kind of luxurious swim any good trout or steelhead is looking for.
There will be a lot more of these species enjoying that dip now that the state of Ohio has completed a $7 million renovation of its Castalia Fish Hatchery. The place is operational and is expected to produce 400,000 steelhead yearlings that will be stocked in five Ohio rivers that feed into Lake Erie.
The Castalia hatchery was the starting point for many of the 96,000 catchable-size rainbow trout that will be released in public fishing areas this spring. Pearson Metropark was stocked with trout in late March, while Olander Lake will receive a stocking of rainbows later this month.
The Castalia State Fish Hatchery property includes the famous Blue Hole tourist attraction that closed about two decades ago. The state owns 90 acres at the site, where a new 12,000-square-foot hatchery will be capable of incubating up to one million steelhead eggs and feeding 500,000 fingerlings.
A 900-foot raceway for the fish is enclosed to protect the steelhead and trout from predators and sunlight. The hatchery also utilizes a state-of-the-art system that monitors water conditions, and it is equipped with an alarm system to activate the emergency power source in the event of a power outage.
The underground aquifers that fill the blue holes in the area also provide the hatchery with 2,500 gallons a minute of the cold water needed for raising trout and steelhead.
Because the water from the blue holes contains no oxygen and is high in nitrogen, it is treated before being used in the waterways of the hatchery. The site also uses about 10,000 gallons a minute of water diverted from nearby Cold Creek.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources purchased the Castalia hatchery venue in 1997, and after viewing the extensive renovations that have taken place since then, Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders president Joe Moravec called the place "a world-class facility."
"The steelhead stocking program in Ohio has provided one of the best, if not the best, steelhead fishing in the country," Moravec said Tuesday.
"With this facility, the quality of steelhead fishing in Ohio won't be matched anywhere in the country."
ODNR director James Zehringer was present for a ceremony at the facility on Tuesday, and he took the opportunity to remind everyone that no state general fund money was used for the renovation project.
Improvements such as those done at the Castalia hatchery are paid for with the $14 million Ohio fishermen contribute each year through the purchase of fishing licenses, and with funds from the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program.
That program collects excise taxes on the sale of fishing equipment and marine fuel and distributes the money to the states to fund fishing and boating projects.
Castalia is one of six fish hatcheries operated by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The sites are expected to provide about 23 million fish for stocking in 2012. Ohio's hatcheries provide muskellunge, catfish, walleye, saugeye, brown trout, and hybrid-striped bass for stocking around the state, as well as the steelhead and rainbow trout raised at Castalia.
The steelhead raised at the Castalia hatchery will be stocked in Conneaut Creek and in the Rocky, Vermilion, Grand, and Chagrin rivers.
Contact Blade Outdoors Editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.