Nestled in the Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area is the Curtis Creek Trout Rearing Station that raises and supplies rainbow trout for recreational fishing in rivers, lakes, and streams throughout Indiana.
Although the rainbow trout are raised at the trout rearing stations, they don’t start their lives there. Curtis Creek receives 70,000 to 80,000 fingerling-size trout, which are around two inches long, from the Bodine State Fish Hatchery in Mishawaka, Ind.
At the fish hatchery, fertilized eggs are held in incubation trays where the hatching will occur within 35 to 40 days. After they have hatched they are held in the incubation trays, where they will absorb their yolk sack for nourishment and growth until they can begin feeding on a regular diet.
The diet of the trout has all of the essential vitamins and minerals needed for proper growth. It is supplied to them all throughout their time at the hatchery and at the Curtis Creek Trout Rearing Station.
When the fingerlings arrive at the trout rearing station at the beginning of March, they are put into the circular ponds for a short time until the trout that are in the raceways are released into the rivers, streams, and lakes for the fishing season.
The trout rearing station likes to use the circular ponds minimally for raising the trout. The circular ponds are run off of well water, which has to be aerated and has iron in it. If the fish were to grow in the circular ponds for a long time it would not be healthy for the trout.
The trout are transferred into the raceways after a few weeks of being in the circular pond, where they will stay until the next year when they are released. The raceways are built to allow the water from Curtis Creek to flow through them at about 5,000 gallons a minute.
Trout are raised in a cold-water environment and if the water gets above 60 degrees Fahrenheit it is not good for them. The station has a system that mixes well water with creek water in the winter and summer to regulate the temperature for the trout.
Since the Curtis Creek Trout Rearing Station is all enclosed by a fence there isn’t really much predation. There are wire spikes on top of the gates in the raceways to prevent birds from eating the young trout.
When the trout are ready to be released, they are about 10 to 12 inches long. Lakes are stocked with the trout in March and then streams are stocked in April right before the fishing season.
Transferring the trout from the trout rearing station to the lakes and streams is done by a truck that is equipped to aerate the water during the trips. Trout are stocked the most in LaGrange and Steuben counties, but are also stocked as far away as Evansville. Some of the trout have recently been taken to the Indiana State Fair for the DNR exhibit.