Blue Dog State Fish Hatchery

Management of our state's fishing waters was an early priority. A "pike hatchery" was built on Lake Kampeska in 1916. In 1929 a pike hatchery was built on the shores of Pickerel Lake.

The small, outdated Pickerel Lake fry hatchery could no longer keep pace with the state's needs, and was closed after 53 years of service. Pollution and watershed abuse had taken a toll on fish habitat, which had been lost or made less suitable for game fish. This led to an increased need for restocking winterkill lakes and supplementing fingerling stocks in many other waters.

GFP recognized the expanding need for management work with all species and sizes of fish, and began planning for all new multi-species hatchery in the late 1960s. A hatchery site investigation pointed to Blue Dog Lake in northeastern South Dakota as a good location. Construction was completed in the fall of 1982, and Blue Dog immediately took over all the state's warm- and cool-water fish production.


  • Reservation are recommended
  • Open Monday - Friday.
  • Daily Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If your organization or class is interested in learning more about the hatchery or in reserving a guided tour, contact:

Blue Dog Lake State Fish Hatchery
44437 139A St
Waubay, SD 57273

Hatcheries and Fisheries Management

The hatchery's mission is to provide suitable quantities and qualities of fish for the management of South Dakota's fisheries resources. Because fish stocking is highly visible and the most commonly thought of aspect of fisheries management, it is often believed to be the most important. However, stocking is but one tool used by fisheries managers.

Protecting and enhancing the integrity of South Dakota's marsh, stream and lake systems is the department's highest priority, for without quality habitat we cannot have quality fishing.

Surveying the fish communities and analyzing their capabilities and problems are the basis for creating GFP's fish management plan. Stocking is often prescribed to correct fish population problems caused by environmental defects or catastrophes and physical conditions that can't be immediately solved by habitat improvement.

The Hatchery Complex

The hatchery is located on the northwest corner of Blue Dog Lake, where there is abundant high-quality ground and lake water. These waters are filtered, aerated and heated to provide the hatchery with a variety of water temperature supplies for many different uses for both indoor and outside rearing of fish.

Inside the hatchery are 700 incubation jars for northern pike and walleye eggs, 20 incubators for trout, salmon, and yellow perch eggs, and 30 rearing tanks. The building contains a visitor center and aquaria, informative displays and conference room. Outdoors there are eight raceways and 36 rearing ponds, totaling 53 surface acres of water.

Two hiking trails are also located on the hatchery complex. One trail provides a view of the raceways and rearing ponds, and the other wanders along the lakeshore and through a marsh ecosystem. A boat launch and fishing pier provide fishing access to Blue Dog Lake.

Hatchery Activities

Up to 14 species of fish have been reared at the hatchery, with production occurring throughout the year. In the spring, cool-water fish eggs (northern pike, muskellunge, walleye and yellow perch) are collected.

After incubation, the newly hatched fry (fish 1-3 days old) are either stocked directly into public fishing waters or into the hatchery ponds to be reared to fingerling size before released into the lakes.

During the summer, warm-water fish (large and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and assorted panfish) are raised. Production shifts to raising advanced sized channel catfish and largemouth bass during the fall and winter. Paddlefish and other species have also been grown at the hatchery.

Much of the hatchery's efforts are concentrated on raising walleyes. Typically more than 100 million eggs are collected from Lake Oahe and eastern South Dakota waters.

Hatchery personnel use various culture practices to increase production. Each year, more than 70 million fish are raised at Blue Dog Lake Hatchery for stocking South Dakota waters.

Blue Dog State Fish Hatchery
Aerial view of rearing ponds at Blue Dog Hatchery where various types of fish are raised for stocking into South Dakota waters.

Blue Dog Hatchery
Educational displays that are present inside the hatchery building. The displays illustrate the steps involved in the walleye egg collection process, as well as describe many other ecological and fish facts.

Fish Spawning

Fish spawning and production takes place each spring on selected South Dakota waters. These video highlights the work our biologists do to supplement natural reproduction of walleye and salmon.