Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery

Overview: Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery was established in 1927 and completely renovated in 1983 (photo 1). This facility produces a wide range of fish species for both inland and Great Lakes waters. Coldwater species produced for Great Lakes waters include steelhead trout and Chinook salmon. Coolwater species produced at this facility include lake sturgeon (the only facility to rear this species), walleye, northern pike, channel catfish (obtained from other states) and northern muskellunge. These species are produced mainly for inland waters although a few are stocked in Great Lakes waters. A pilot project to raise lake herring is underway and will conclude in June 2009. This facility has both indoor and outdoor rearing facilities. The indoor facilities include 20 rectangular, concrete tanks , incubation areas with Heath trays and McDonald hatching jars for cold and coolwater eggs, and over 40 circular tanks for coolwater fish production. The outdoor facilities include 12 large production raceways, four lined rearing ponds and 11 earthen ponds.

Coolwater production at Wolf Lake has been reduced due to the presence of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia virus (VHSv) in the Great Lakes. In 2009, there will be full muskellunge production, but no northern pike, walleye or lake sturgeon at Wolf Lake. For more information about VHSv and coolwater production plans for 2009, please refer to the Fishing section on the DNR homepage.

The Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center features exhibits on the importance of lakes and wetlands to the Great Lakes, fisheries history, commercial fishing, lake sturgeon rehabilitation and offers tours of the hatchery.

Showcasing the DNR story on Wolf Lake Hatchery called "Wolf Lake: Much More Than Just a Fish Hatchery".

Location: 34270 County Road 652, Mattawan, MI 49071.

Photo - aerial view of Wol Lake Hatchery 2008

Photo 1. Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery - 2008


Driving Directions: The hatchery is six miles west of U.S. 131 on M-43 in Van Buren County, on Fish Hatchery Road just off of M-43 on the south side of M-43. Please park in the visitor center parking lot.


map of Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery location


Telephone: (269) 668-2696

Hatchery Manager: Martha Wolgamood

Hatchery Biologist: Matt Hughes

Year Opened: In 1927, the Izaak Walton League purchased the original 78 acres for $5,000 and donated the property to the state for hatchery development. By 1935, an additional 59 acres was acquired by the Department of Conservation to provide more space for hatchery ponds (photo 2).

Photo - aerial view of Wol Lake Hatchery in 1940

Photo 2. Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery - June 1940.


Renovation History: Numerous upgrades and renovations have been made over the years to stay current with the latest fish culture technologies. In 1980, the hatchery was completely renovated and the current facility was constructed (photo 3). This reconstruction was completed in 1983. In 1994, the outdoor raceways (photo 4) were enclosed at a cost of $180,000. The outdoor raceway covers reduce fish stress, reduce fish wastes, prevent avian predation and improve growth and condition.

Photo - aerial photo of Wolf Lake Hatchery in 2008

Photo 3. Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery - 2008

Photo of raceway complex in June 2008


Photo 4. Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery raceway complex - June 2008


As part of a previous hatchery renovation project, Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery's effluent treatment pond was dredged and lined, and a new de-watering system was added (photo 5). This new system removes fish production solids prior to entering the treatment pond. These upgrades were completed in 1999 and greatly improved the overall wastewater treatment by increasing settling rates of fish and food wastes, lessening the facility's impact on the watershed. The project has reduced total phosphorus loads from this site.

Photo of new clarifier

Photo 5. New clarifier at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery with the effluent ponds in the background. The clarifier removes solids from cleaning wastes prior to entering effluent ponds. Photo taken in 2001.


Recent Facility Renovations: In 2001, lined rearing ponds were built for coolwater production. (Photo 6). These ponds have proven successful for the culture of northern muskellunge, walleye, and fathead minnows. In April 2008, ponds were re-contoured to improve drainage and aeration systems added to provide supplemental oxygen with funding from the Michigan Muskie Alliance. Also in spring 2008, the Wolf Lake Visitor Center restrooms and show pond dock railings were renovated to improve accessibility. This project was funded with a Land and Water Conservation Grant and Game and Fish Fund monies.

Photo of lined rearing ponds

Photo 6. Aerial view of lined rearing ponds


Planned Renovations: Renovations planned for Wolf Lake include the addition of a new coolwater production building and lined rearing ponds, as well as upgrades to the coldwater hatchery complex. The new coolwater production building will be located just north of the existing raceway complex and will provide state-of-the-art production facilities for walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, and lake sturgeon. New lined ponds will be located adjacent to the existing lined ponds. Renovations will be done when funding becomes available.

Production Water: Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery uses predominantly well water pumped from three primary production wells and two supplemental wells, in addition to some spring water. Depending on the time of year, water usage varies between 1.0 to 4.5 million gallons per day. Each well provides a different amount of water so varying combinations of wells optimize water throughout the production cycle while minimizing utility costs associated with well pumps. The water temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year with spring water ranging between 48°F and 52°F and well water ranging between 50°F and 52°F.

Hatchery Staffing: The hatchery is staffed by an Area Manager (responsible for Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery, the statewide coolwater production program, the fish marking and transportation programs, the statewide electronics maintenance program, and the fish health and quality programs), a Hatchery Biologist,, three Fisheries Technicians, two Fisheries Assistants (Seasonal), a maintenance supervisor, two maintenance mechanics, a Trades Helper, a Secretary, a Fish Marking and Transportation Biologist (statewide program), an Electronics Technician (services all 6 hatcheries) and one Stateworker used to assist with fish culture and maintenance. Up to 15 stateworkers are also employed seasonally to mark fish at this facility. Fish Health Services are provided by the Aquatic Animal Health Lab-School of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University with oversight by the Area Manager.

Broodstock: No captive or wild broodstock are maintained at this hatchery. All eggs for Wolf Lake production are obtained from wild broodstock. Pond culture of fathead minnows is performed at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery to provide forage for muskellunge.

List of Broodstock Locations for
Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery

Walleye Muskegon River (Newaygo Co., Lake Michigan Basin)
Tittabawassee River (Saginaw County, Lake Huron Basin)
Northern Pike Sanford Lake (Clare Co., Lake Huron Basin)
Kent Lake (Oakland Co., Lake Erie Basin)
Muskellunge Lake Hudson (Lenawee Co., Lake Erie Basin)
Thornapple Lake (Barry Co., Lake Michigan Basin)
Chinook Salmon Little Manistee River (Manistee Co., Lake Michigan Basin)
Swan River ( Presque Isle Co., Lake Huron Basin)
Steelhead Little Manistee River (Manistee Co., Lake Michigan Basin)
Lake Sturgeon Black River (Cheyboygan Co., Lake Huron Basin)
Sturgeon River (Baraga Co., Lake Superior Basin)
Lake Herring St. Mary's River (Chippewa Co., Lake Huron Basin)

Management Role: This facility produces a wide range of fish species for both inland and Great Lakes waters. Coldwater species produced for Great Lakes waters include steelhead trout and chinook salmon. The coldwater species are either directly planted into Great Lakes connecting waters or are transferred to cooperative groups, via net pens and ponds, for enhanced growth and/or smoltifcation. Coolwater species produced at this facility include lake sturgeon (the only facility to rear this species), walleye, northern pike, channel catfish (obtained from other states) and northern muskellunge. These coolwater species are produced for mainly inland waters although some are stocked in Great Lakes waters.

Fish Stocking and Transfers

2008 Fish Stocking Summary for Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery





Weight (kg)

Chinook Michigan Spring Fingerlings



Steelhead Michigan Yearlings



Steelhead Skamania Yearlings



Muskellunge Northern Fall Fingerlings



Lake Herring St. Mary's Fall Fingerlings







2008 Fish Transfers from Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery





Weight (kg)

Transfer Location

Chinook Salmon


Spring Fingerlings



Net Pens, Arden Pond, Platte R. SFH

Chinook Salmon

















Ohio, Thompson SFH



Fall Fingerlings



Ohio, Arden Pond, Orsini











Programs unique to Wolf Lake:

Northern muskellunge - The muskellunge program at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery continues to be a rewarding and challenging endeavor (photo 7). In 2008, improvements in indoor rearing operations, feeding, health management and pond function/management allowed for the most successful year of culture to date. Nearly 40,000 fall fingerlings, averaging 10 inches in length, were stocked from Wolf Lake. Tireless effort and management from culture staff and partnerships with groups like Michigan Musky Alliance continue to improve this program each year.

Photo of spawning a female muskellunge

Photo 7. Spawning a female muskellunge.


Lake herring (pilot project) - A pilot project is underway to develop culture methods for the production of lake herring at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery (photo 8). This project was initiated by Lake Huron managers as part of a potential reintroduction program. Eggs were obtained from the St. Mary's River and brought back to Wolf Lake for culture. Many physical and environmental variables are monitored to develop the optimum rearing and growth conditions required for successful lake herring production. The 2009 culture season has seen increased levels of fertility and survival compared to 2008, indicating a greater understanding of the life cycle, spawning dates and successful culture practices for lake herring. Continued partnerships and collaborations on this project should yield both a greater understanding of the lake herring's role in management and of the species in general.

Photo of lake herring sac-fry

Photo 9. Lake herring sac-fry in a 2 foot circular tank.


Visitor Center: The Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center, which opened in 1983, is dedicated to providing visitors with the opportunity to learn about fish, their life cycles and habitats; and the history of Great Lakes fish hatcheries and the vital role they play in helping to protect and restore our aquatic ecosystems (photo 9).

Photo of show pond in 2008

Photo 9. Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center and show pond as seen in 2008.


The visitor center underwent major renovations from 2003 to 2008. Among the new interpretive displays is a short video that shows how fish planting was done in the 1920s as well as an expansive exhibit hall focusing on the history of Great Lakes fisheries. An interactive computer allows visitors to learn more about our watersheds and other aspects of fish culture. The project was funded primarily by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust (www.glft.org) with additional funding from the Department of Natural Resources. An onsite gift shop is also available for visitors. New interpretive programs continue to be added as interest grows (four new programs since 2003).

Photo of interpretative display

Photo 10. New interpretative display on the history of Michigan fishing - June 2008.

The renovated show pond in front of the visitor center (photo 11) holds a variety of Michigan game fish for viewing, including Chinook salmon, steelhead, bluegill, northern muskellunge, northern pike, largemouth bass, walleye and lake sturgeon.

Photo - aerial photo of show pond

Photo 11. Show pond at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery Visitors Center.


A nature trail system winds around 11 earthen ponds on the hatchery grounds. The ponds range in size from two to 25 acres, and the trail provides an excellent opportunity for viewing birds and other wildlife. There are also many amenities, including benches, a bird viewing platform and other interpretive displays to enhance your visit.

Visitor Center Hours:

Spring and Fall (March - May and September - October): Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday 12 noon - 4 p.m. and we are closed on Mondays.

Summer (Memorial Day - Labor Day): Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday 12 noon - 6 p.m.

November: Open on weekends through Thanksgiving: Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday 12 noon - 4 p.m.

Closed December - February except for special programs. For more information, contact Shana Ramsey at 269-668-2876.

Image of Sport Fish Restoration Logo

Fish Production, Stocking, Management and Research are supported by the Sportfish Restoration Act funding.