The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries operates nine fish cultural stations around the state. These are categorized as either “rearing stations,” or “hatcheries.”
There are four warm water facilities, that hatch and rear warm water species, like muskellunge, northern pike, striped bass, walleyes, catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill and redear sunfish. These warm water stations provide 2-5 million fish for annual stocking in Virginia waters. In addition, they produce 10-15 million striped bass for trading with 15 other states.
The five cold water facilities are engaged entirely in trout production, from hatching to raising to stocking sizes. Over a million trout are reared to stocking size each year.
Vic Thomas Striped Bass Hatchery (Campbell County)
The Vic Thomas Hatchery, formerly the Brookneal Hatchery, annually spawns and hatches millions of striped bass. The striped bass produced here are from landlocked fish captured in the Roanoke River drainage. Walleye fingerlings are also reared here, primarily for stocking of lakes in south central Virginia. A visit to the hatchery is best planned for April or May during the striped bass run on the Roanoke River.
King and Queen Hatchery (King and Queen County)
The King and Queen Hatchery, near Stevensville, hatches and rears walleye, saugeye, fathead minnows, channel catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, redear, and bluegill. Marine Striped bass hatched at this facility are from fish captured from the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers, and they are used to stock lakes in the Chesapeake drainage. The fresh water strain of striped bass produced here are from landlocked fish captured in the Roanoke River drainage. The facility has also been, and may again be, involved with restoration of fish populations. Past restorations include American shad, black banded sunfish, and striped bass. The hatchery also collaborates with academic institutions to promote research in natural resource management. Scheduled group visits are welcomed with primary production activities in April through July.
Buller Fish Hatchery (Smyth County)
The Buller Fish Hatchery near Sugar Grove annually produces northern pike muskellunge, smallmouth bass, and walleyes, as well as 50,000 trout. Trout used to stock Clinch Mountain WMA (Big Tumbling Creek) and Crooked Creek fee-fishing areas are produced year-round. Intensive rearing of muskellunge and northern pike is underway from April through June.
Front Royal Fish Hatchery Station (Warren County)
The Front Royal Fish Hatchery is primarily used to for the production of walleye and smallmouth bass fingerlings. The hatchery also serves as a distribution point for trout, catfish, and other species to the waters of northern and north western Virginia.
Marion Trout Hatchery (Smyth County)
The Marion Trout Hatchery is the oldest of the trout culture facilities. Trout are spawned, hatched, and reared at this facility, with many of them then transported to other stations. Trout from Marion are stocked in the waters of far southwest Virginia.
Montebello Fish Cultural Station (Nelson County)
The Montebello Fish Cultural Station is the smallest of the facilities, but it still produces an important portion of the total output. Located near the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is one of the most popular sites for visitors. Montebello trout go to all the trout waters east of the Blue Ridge, from Amherst County, north.
Coursey Spring Fish Cultural Station (Bath County)
Coursey Springs Fish Cultural Station near Williamsville, is the largest trout rearing station. A total renovation of this facility was completed in June of 2010, and it is now even larger than ever. Featuring state of the art technologies, the new facility has expanded its production capacity by over 40%. Nestled in a beautiful valley, it is strictly a rearing station. No trout are spawned or hatched here. Trout from Coursey Springs go to the streams west of the Blue Ridge, from Alleghany County, north.
Wytheville Trout Hatchery (Wythe County)
The Wytheville Trout Hatchery near Max Meadows was acquired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1983. Rainbow, brook, and brown trout are all hatched and reared here. It, too, is a popular tourist attraction for travelers moving along I-81 and I-77, which intersect in the area. The trout from Wytheville are stocked in the waters from roughly Grayson County north to Bland.
Paint Bank Trout Hatchery (Craig County)
The Paint Bank Trout Hatchery is another station that was taken over from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It hatches and rears all three species of trout for stocking in Virginia waters, and it is a participating hatchery in the National Broodstock Program. Paint Bank fish are stocked in the Roanoke area, from Craig to Henry counties.
Fish rearing in the cold water or trout fish cultural stations is a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day, year round project. The same is true of the warmwater hatcheries during the production season. Visitors are always welcome from 8 AM to 3 PM. With the expansion of the Department’s trout stocking in the year round stocking program, some warmwater hatcheries have expanded their operations during the winter months, as needed.