Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery

Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center  Fish CAM - see lake sturgeon, Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, northern pike, northern muskellunge, walleye, largemouth bass and a variety of sunfish


Overview: Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery was established in 1927 and completely renovated in 1983 (photo 1). This facility currently produces four different 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 walleye and Great Lakes muskellunge. 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 18 circular tanks for coolwater fish production. The outdoor facilities include 12 large production raceways, four lined rearing ponds and 11 earthen ponds.

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: Located in VanBuren County, the hatchery is six miles west of U.S. 131 on the southwest corner of M-43  and County Road 652. Please park in the visitor center parking lot.


map of Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery location Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery sign


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 - 2015

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 a new fish waste collection system (clarifier) was added (photo 5). This new system removes fish wastesolids 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 significantly reduced total phosphorus loads from this site.

Photo of new clarifier

Photo 5. 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.


Facility Renovations: In 2001, lined rearing ponds were built for coolwater production. (Photo 6). These ponds have proven successful for the culture of muskellunge, walleye and fathead minnows. In April 2008, ponds were re-contoured to improve drainage and aeration systems added to provide supplemental aeration with funding from the Michigan Muskie Alliance. 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. Currently, the addition of a floating fishing pier to provide safe access for kids fishing programs, as well as upgrades to viewing access on and around the Show Pond, are underway. These are scheduled to be completed by May 2016. This project is being funded with a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Photo of lined rearing ponds shoreline at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery

Photo 6. Aerial view and shoreline 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 south of the main hatchery complex, adjacent to current lined ponds 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 5 million gallons per day. Each well provides a different amount of water so different 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 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 (shared with three other lower peninsula hatcheries), a Fish Marking and Transportation Biologist (statewide program), and one State Worker used to assist with fish culture and maintenance. Up to five state workers are also employed seasonally to mark fish at this facility. Fish Health Services are provided by the Aquatic Animal Health Lab 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

Chinook Salmon Little Manistee River (Manistee Co., Lake Michigan Basin)
Swan River (Presque Isle Co., Lake Huron Basin)
Muskellunge Detroit River (Wayne Co., Lake Erie Basin)
Steelhead Little Manistee River (Manistee Co., Lake Michigan Basin)
Walleye Muskegon River (Newaygo Co., Lake Michigan 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 stocked directly into Great Lakes connecting waters or are transferred to cooperative groups, via net pens and ponds, for enhanced growth, imprinting and/or smoltifcation. Coolwater species produced at this facility include walleye and Great Lakes muskellunge. These coolwater species are produced for stocking in Great Lakes and inland waters.

Wolf Lake Hatchery Production

Species - strain


Number Stocked

Chinook salmon - Michigan Spring Fingerlings


Muskellunge - Great Lakes Fall Fingerlings


Muskellunge - Great Lakes Spring Fingerlings


Steelhead - Michigan Fall Fingerlings


Steelhead - Michigan Yearlings 760,993
Walleye - Muskegon Fry




For detailed information of fish stocked, see the DNR's website at: http://www.michigandnr.com/fishstock/.






Programs unique to Wolf Lake:




Great Lakes muskellunge - The muskellunge program at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery continues to be a rewarding and challenging endeavor (photos 7, 8, 9).  Historically the Great Lakes strain of muskellunge was the variety that was native to most of Michigan. The Northern strain was native only to parts of the Upper Peninsula. The northern strain has been propagated at Wolf Lake Hatchery and widely stocked throughout most of the state’s inland waters since the 1950’s and has become established in many locations. In 2011, Fisheries Division started rearing and stocking the Great Lake strain in hopes of reestablishing  the native strain throughout its former range. The primary focus of this program is to develop a broodstock population in two inland lakes that will be used for future egg collections and stocking throughout the state. Successful rearing of this strain has allowed for not only stocking fish in these two future broodstock lakes, but also many other lakes statewide every fall since 2011. Improvements in indoor rearing operations, feeding, health management and pond function/management over the last 10 years have resulted in increased numbers of fish for stocking. Tireless efforts from fish production staff and partnerships with groups, like Michigan Musky Alliance, continue to improve this program each year.

Northern muskellunge - The northern muskellunge is native to a small number of inland waters in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There are still a small number of lakes where northern muskellunge are desired for stocking. Current hatchery space won’t accommodate rearing both strains. In order to meet stocking requests for northern muskellunge, a trade agreement was established with the State of Wisconsin. This agreement provides northern muskellunge produced in Wisconsin hatcheries for stocking in Michigan in exchange for Great Lakes strain fish produced in Michigan to stock in Wisconsin - a partnership that helps both States fulfill stocking needs.

Photo of spawning a female muskellunge

Photo 7. Spawning a Great Lakes muskellunge from the Detroit River.

Harvesting fall fingerling Great Lakes muskellunge

Photo 8. Harvesting fall fingerling Great Lakes muskellunge from lined ponds in late October.

stocking truck unloading muskellunge muskellunge in water

Photo 9. Stocking fall fingerling Great Lakes muskellunge in late October.



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 of show pond in 2008 display at Wolf Lake Visitor Center

Photo 10. Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center and show pond as seen in 2015.


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. 

Photo of interpretative display

Photo 11. New interpretative display on the history of Michigan fishing - June 2008.

Interpretive programs include hatchery tours, catch-and-release fishing (photo 12), archery and more.

youth fishing on show pond

Photo 12. Catch-and-release fishing program for kids.

The show pond in front of the visitor center (photo 13) holds a variety of Michigan game fish for viewing (photo 14), including Chinook salmon, steelhead, bluegill, northern muskellunge, northern pike, largemouth bass, walleye and lake sturgeon.

Photo - aerial photo of show pond sturgeon swimming in show pond

Photos 13 and 14: Show pond at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery Visitors Center and view into pond from dock.

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 (April - May and September - October): Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday 12 noon - 4 p.m., 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 - March, except for special programs.

For more information about Visitor Center programs, visit the Wolf Lake Visitor Center website at www.michigan.gov/wolflakevc.

Image of Sport Fish Restoration Logo

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