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Spawning brook trout
Spawning brook trout: Brian Otten joins the staff at the Nevin State Fish Hatchery in Fitchburg to try his hand at spawning captive brook trout.

About the Nevin State Fish Hatchery:

Located at 3911 Fish Hatchery Road in Fitchburg (near Madison), Nevin Fish Hatchery is the oldest of all the hatcheries owned and operated by the state, opening in 1876.
Almost a half million trout are raised at the hatchery annually.
The hatchery hosts a wild strain brook and brown trout program as well as Irwin strain rainbow trout.
Five artesian wells and a spring supply the hatchery with around 1,500 gallons of water per minute.
The hatchery is open for tours of groups of 15 or more. Contact the supervisor at 608-275-3246. The hatchery is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.


I met Jason Himebauch when I was five and my family had just moved from a family property we called the 'fish hatchery'. I’ll tie this ‘hatchery’ thing in later.

Jason lived down the road. His house was a few miles away, but in the country, this still qualifies you as neighbors. Jason’s dad worked for a livestock breeding company and later, in our teens, this was the source of many jokes. I’ll tie this breeding thing in later, too.

Over the years, we drove our big wheels around the same driveway in rural Shawano County. We’d eventually play basketball on this same driveway and use it as the home run line in Wiffleball games. We grew up together doing all the stuff guys do in small town Wisconsin. Everything from driving a little too fast around winding country roads to belittling each other in front of the girl we may both have had our eyes on. But one thing I never did with Jason was hunt or fish. These activities were part of the fabric of his family, but had been mostly removed from mine (somewhat by my own choice as an impatient youth).

Read more: Spawning trout a slippery science

More on fishing: Fishing news from around the state | Your fishing photos | Build a map | Read fishing reports | We're blogging about fishing

So here we are in 2011. Jason and I have finished college, started jobs, stood up in each other’s weddings and started families of our own now. Jason lives near Madison and works for the DNR. I manage a website. And Wednesday, December 7, everything sort of came full circle.

I joined Jason and his co-workers at the Nevin State Fish Hatchery in Fitchburg as they spawned brook trout. I tried my hand at it, too (see the video above). This hatchery was nothing like the small property I lived at as a kid. Several buildings circled by concrete raceways hold hundreds of thousands of fish at this Madison-area facility. The small house I lived in as a child was flanked by beds dug into the ground. The edges of these beds were slouching into the shallow pools and the troughs held only a few, elusive fish.

Jason’s workplace is home to the constant hum of pumps and the soft gurgle of moving water as the environment for this host of trout is kept Oxygen-rich. The ‘hatchery’ that had been in my family for some time was in a quiet, wooded hollow surrounded by farms.

And what does Jason, the foreman at this facility, do? I’m sure his dad is proud of him, because he breeds fish. Trout and lots of them.

And so I still haven’t shared a fishing trip with Jason. But I can picture an outing sometime down the road, maybe in the Richland Center area where the trout at the Nevin State Fish Hatchery originate. We’ll grab some trout fishing gear and give it a try someday. If I can have fun squeezing stuff out of a fish with him, I know catching some trout would be a blast.

Brian Otten is digital content manager for He can be reached at (715) 845-0702 or

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