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Kentucky’s trout nursery

National fish hatchery has lots of amenities

Fly fishermen don’t just cast their lines; they make it an art form. I saw this poetry in motion at a place all Kentucky fly-casters and spin fishermen should visit. 

The Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery is just below Wolf Creek Dam at the tailwaters of the Cumberland River in Russell County in the South Kentucky RECC service area. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the hatchery produces about a million trout per year to be stocked in approximately 120 public lakes and streams across Kentucky. 

Trout eggs are obtained from broodstock hatcheries in Wyoming, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia. After hatching, they’re held indoors until they become fingerlings. At that point, they are placed in long outdoor raceways before they are taken to other waters. 

Some of those waters are nearby. Thanks to the hatchery, the Cumberland River below the dam is now a trophy rainbow and brown trout stream. The staff also stocks the upper portion of the mile-long Hatchery Creek, which meanders through the woods adjacent to the hatchery. The creek has become so well-known it draws fly-casters from across the country. 

About 100,000 people come to the hatchery each year—and it’s no wonder when you look at all the amenities, including a visitor center, gift shop, environmental education center and exhibit hall. Inside the exhibit hall, folks can gaze into beautifully lit aquariums holding trout and other species of fish. Outside, visitors can enjoy a nature trail and a fully developed Army Corps of Engineers campground. The raceways holding the trout are also open to the public. 

To add icing to the cake, fly-fishing workshops are held here the second Saturday of each month. Instructor Mark Lamberth has fly-fished in 42 states and has 50 years of experience. That’s the kind of fly-fishing teacher I want. 

Kids can take part in the “Catch a Rainbow Day” fishing derby held on the first Saturday of each June. The event drew 1,200 kids this year. Fishing events are also held for wounded veterans, children with special needs and seniors. (Check out Kentucky Fish & Wildlife’s Fishing in Neighborhoods program)

The hatchery also conducts a variety of environmental education programs. You can even watch honeybees working hard behind glass in the exhibit hall. And you can meet Ranger the skunk. Don’t worry: He’s de-scented. 

“Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery is a very special place because we do a multitude of programs,” says education specialist Moria Painter. “We connect kids and adults with nature, fishing, and we promote environmental education and stewardship.” 

For the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wolf Creek Hatchery, with a full-time staff of only 10, is an amazing achievement and the only one of its kind in the country. It’s well worth a visit.

For more information about any of the programs or volunteering at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, go to or call (270) 343-3797.

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