Hatchery - Fact Sheet Peterson State Fish Hatchery

Peterson Hatchery

  • Year-round, Cold Water facility
  • Species produced: Lake Trout, Splake Trout
  • Year Established: 1880’s


History - 1880’s to 1980’s: The first recorded development of this site for occurred in the 1880’s. Sometime prior to 1886, Addis E. Hazzard (owner of the drug store in Rushford at the time) created a campground here. Improvements over the years included an artificial lake to support trout, clearing brush, and building a “…commodious log-cabin containing a substantial fireplace and other conveniences”. During the late 1800’s, Camp Hazzard was a favorite spot for many area citizens to rest, relax and socialize during the summer months. Several floods hit the campground over the years and it was finally abandoned in 1915 after a “…devastating flood brought it to ruin.”

Before the flood of 1915, the artificial lake was already supporting young trout. After the flood, it is unclear how the site was used. Then, in the 1940's, four men from the area developed fish rearing ponds and created a bait minnow hatchery. The bait minnow endeavor was not successful and the owners switched to trout production. Trout production continued until 1988 under several different managers and owners. The Minnesota DNR purchased the trout farm in August 1988 to supplement DNR’s trout production capabilities.

History - 1988 to present: In late 1988, the new DNR facility was renamed the Peterson State Fish Hatchery and began producing Atlantic salmon, lake trout, and brook trout for stocking in Minnesota waters. Rainbow and brown trout production started at Peterson in 1989. At that time, the hatchery was comprised mostly of dirt bottom ponds that were open to the sun and accessible to predators, the hatchery piping was antiquated and the springs were unprotected. Few of the facilities were suitable for raising lake trout or other species that need darker, more protected conditions. An extensive, multi-phased, renovation began in 1989 and reached completion in 2002. The goals of the renovation were to create facilities that would:

  1. Effectively produce any species and size of trout or salmon.
  2. Rely on gravity flow from the springs rather than on pumps and electricity.
  3. Be relatively simple and inexpensive to operate.

The renovation met all of those goals. During the renovation years, the hatchery maintained full fish production by completing one segment at a time and adapting to the conditions at hand.

The previously uncovered spring ponds are now covered and protected. Well-oxygenated, 48-degree spring water, moves by gravity flow through pipes from the springs to the fish rearing areas. Valves distribute and control the flow. Hatchery workers measure flow rates by using weirs, flumes, flow meters and pressure sensors. Peterson Hatchery uses round fish rearing tanks almost exclusively. Round tanks promote self-cleaning and uniform water quality, leading to better utilization of the space and water by the fish. Buildings or tent-like domes enclose all of the tanks to provide a dark, undisturbed environment for the fish. Fresh water enters each tank through a spray bar at the outside edge, circles around and around, then drains through a flat screen in the floor at the center of the tank. The motion of the water removes nearly all fish waste from the tank. A standpipe outside the tank controls the water depth in the tank. After overflowing the standpipe, the water flows through pipes to special settling tanks that collect the fish waste before it can escape to the trout stream. Periodic pumping of the settling tanks moves the waste to a “composting pond” where it is broken down by vegetation, snails and other organisms.

Fish Management

In general, fish management tools fall into one of four categories:

  • protecting and restoring habitats and water quality
  • regulating the harvest
  • stocking
  • public education

Lake surveys and research provide the information used to select appropriate management tools.


Science Informing Management

What types of research help with management decisions for this hatchery?

  • Genetics research has helped to identify wild lake trout populations that share similar characteristics, enabling the development of hatchery stocks that may meet specific needs.
  • Fish food and nutrition research has developed diets that produce excellent fish survival, growth, feed conversions, and greatly reduced waste production. Many diets are available to meet the specific requirements of the fish.
  • Over 100 years of previous fish culture research has developed general guidelines for all aspects of cold-water fish culture. Peterson’s staff applies these methods, as appropriate, to this hatchery.
  • Because every fish hatchery is a unique, specialized, artificial environment, each hatchery must conduct its own extensive research on site to determine the best methods, techniques, supplies, materials and timing for successfully producing the fish that it rears. The fish culture information collected on a daily basis is actually continuing research that helps refine our knowledge about the fish at this facility.

What other factors are involved with management decisions involving this hatchery?

  • Budget and staffing factors affect almost every management decision.
  • Environmental and energy concerns often shape decisions.
  • Fish diseases and invasive species affect where and how fish are moved and used.

What types of research or other science activities occur along with the activities in this hatchery?

  • Ground water studies.
  • Computerized data management.
  • School environmental tours and stream invertebrate studies.

How does the data collected and/or research conducted at this hatchery inform/affect fisheries managers and fisheries habitats?

  • Peterson’s lake trout, marked with a fin clip, enable Fish Managers to evaluate survival and performance of fish stocked in the lakes.
  • Egg survival information for captive brood stock influenced fish managers to study the development of a different genetic strain of lake trout for stocking inland lakes. This eight-year study is composed of two parts, performance of the fish in the hatchery, and performance in the lakes following stocking. The future direction of the inland lake trout program hinges on the outcome of this study.
  • Peterson’s captive lake trout brood stocks have genetics similar to the fish that Minnesota has been stocking in Lake Superior. Lake Superior lake trout are almost self-sustaining and stocking numbers have been dropping for several years. Having a disease free captive brood that could meet the needs of both inland and Lake Superior gives managers an opportunity to adjust hatchery production to meet other needs.

Tours and Visits

  • Self-guided tour: Due to spring construction, we will be open May 1 through October. Hours are 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. on weekdays and 7-11 a.m. on weekends.
  • Guided Tour: Available by reservation - Phone: 507-875-2625

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