Thunder River rearing station *Temporarily Closed*
Located on the South Branch of the Thunder River with a lovely waterfall at the head, the Thunder River rearing station annually produces brown trout for Lake Michigan.
Fish rearing for over 75 years
The Thunder River Rearing Station, also known as “Little Falls Hatchery”, is celebrating more than 75 years as a fish rearing operation. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources operates this facility today for the purpose of producing large size brown trout for the Lake Michigan fisheries program, very similar to the Wisconsin Conservation Department’s earliest plan for “The Little Falls Hatchery” to supplement the fishing boom of the 1930s by stocking trout in Marinette County. For three-quarters of a century, the extraordinary construction and engineering by the boys and men of the CCCs and the WPA has endured.
A rustic tourist destination
Thunder River Hatchery began as a tourist destination for the adventurer in the early 1900’s because of its waterfall and scenic beauty and then, with President Roosevelt’s New Deal Program of 1936, became a showcase fish hatchery. The rustic building design and potential for raising millions of fish for the Wisconsin sportsman made it a premier facility of that time. Over the years, Thunder River Hatchery has steadfastly maintained its authentic beauty while providing fish for the public under modern standards of fish propagation.
Please stop in to visit and see our information center and some of the photos on display, and then walk around and admire the unique building construction. Most of the year there will be up to 140,000 Brown Trout on site so come several times throughout the season and see them grow.
I am pretty proud of this place as I have been here since 1989. I've met a lot of interesting people that have come through here as visitors and as former employees, and most have had a sentimental attachment to the place. It's a small production facility, but because it is so beautiful and has been here for so long, that is worth a visit in itself.
Visiting hours and tours
When visiting the hatchery, the public can view fingerling fish in rearing houses and holding ponds, visit the information center and take a walk near the waterfalls. Stocking occurs in April and September so the facility may be empty during those times.
Hatchery hours and tours
- Temporarily closed.
The facility sits in a valley and the driveway is very steep which can be a challenge to bicyclists going out. Although there are no picnic areas on-site, the hatchery is just five miles away from Governor Thompson State Park.
Fishing is allowed downstream from the main entrance, but biosecurity precautions must be respected and all gear must be completely dry or disinfected prior to entering the facility to prevent the spread of disease such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS).
- Contact information
- Jesse Landwehr
Phone: (920) 622-3527 x201
Fish culture operations
Over 75 years of fish culture experience has enabled the Thunder River facility to produce and distribute several different species of fish to be stocked inland and in the Great Lakes, including Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, Steelhead Salmon, Coho Salmon and Walleye. Today, as a Rearing Station, the primary species for many years has been the Wild Rose Domestic Strain of Brown Trout destined for Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Young fingerling are transferred from the Wild Rose Hatchery and reared for distribution the following spring as yearling. Water for the facility is diverted directly off of the Thunder River to run both concrete raceways and earthen ponds, so operations are typically based on the seasonal nature of the river. The Thunder River Rearing Station has maintained high standards of fish health throughout the years, despite the challenges of being an open water system.