We supply the fish, you supply the pumpkin spice. Experience fall at a national fish hatchery!

The leaves are passing peak, and the nights are getting colder, but there’s still plenty of autumn activities to enjoy at a national fish hatchery.

A cloudy blue sky and trees with yellow leaves are reflected in calm waters.
A calm fall day at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery. Photo by Sam Stukel/USFWS.

Here are five ways you can get out and enjoy a national fish hatchery near you!

1. Take a hike in the crisp fall air.

Leadville Nation Fish Hatchery — Leadville, Colorado

A forest of tall trees with white bark and bright yellow leaves glow in the sun. A blue sky is visible through the leaves.
A path curves across a rocky hillside past a wooden nature trail sign. Trees line a path covered with red and orange leaves.
A forest of tall pine trees and trees with yellow and orange leaves glow in the sun. Blue sky is visible in the background.
Leadville National Fish Hatchery is surrounded by miles of beautiful hiking and walking trails. Photos by Ed Stege/USFWS.

Whether you need a place to stretch your legs or you are looking to tackle a mountain — a trail on a national fish hatchery is the perfect opportunity to throw on a cozy sweater and tell your friends how much you just love that “crisp fall air!”

Leadville National Fish Hatchery is a great place to do all the fall things you’ve been dreaming of. Beautiful leaves, check. Crisp mountain air, check. Gorgeous fish, check. Pumpkin Spice Latte, we’ll leave that up to you. From the hatchery you can find trailhead access into the Mount Massive Wilderness Area, and the Rock Creek, Highline and Kearney Park trails, with different routes starting and ending on the hatchery grounds. Be sure to bring your binoculars for the spectacular wildlife viewing, such as mountain bluebirds, juncos, jays, hawks, eagles, waterfowl, elk, deer, porcupines, fox and pine martens.

2. Enjoy the colors!

Genoa National Fish Hatchery — Genoa, Wisconsin

Two mussel on a flat surface surrounded by two red maple leaves.
A close-up view of fish scales that are speckled orange and blue with three pink circles.
Maple leaves have changed to bright red and orange and glow in the sun. Glimpses of blue sky are visible in the background.
Maple leaf mussels raised at Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Photo by Megan Bradley/USFWS. Coaster brook trout scales are beautiful any time of year. Photo by Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS. The fall leaves are popping at Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Photo by USFWS.

From maple leaves to maple leaf mussels to the gorgeous scales of coaster brook trout (who knew fish were so pretty!), Genoa National Fish Hatchery is a great place to explore fall colors all year long.

Explore a wetland and native prairie boardwalk, a walking trail and culture buildings housing 24 species of fish, freshwater mussels, and amphibians. Although the Great River Road Interpretive Center is currently closed, you can still take a virtual hatchery tour!

3. Peep a fish!

D. C. Booth National Fish Hatchery and Archives— Spearfish, South Dakota

A tree with red leaves in the center of the photo. A building with sign saying Fish hatchery is to the right of the tree.
A white gazebo with a sign that says “Historic Fish Hatchery.” Trees with green and gold leaves are in the background.
D.C. Booth Historic Fish Hatchery is home to beautiful fish and spectacular fall colors. Photos by (L) April Gregory/USFWS and (R) Sam Stukel/USFWS.

A trip to D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery and Archives brings you up close and personal with gorgeous brown trout and rainbow trout. Even if you missed peak color for leaf peeping, you can still do some fish peeping while you feed the fish at D.C. Booth’s outdoor ponds and underwater viewing windows. Although indoor venues may be closed, you are welcome to visit the grounds daily from dawn to dusk! 🐟🍁

4. Support endangered species recovery!

Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery — South Dakota

A cloudy blue sky and trees with yellow leaves are reflected in calm waters.
A fish with a long nose and sharp spines running down it’s back. The fish seems to float on a bright white background.
A calm fall day at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery; Juvenile pallid sturgeon. Photos by Sam Stukel/USFWS.

Once you’re done feeding the fish and frolicking on the two miles of nature trails at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery, you can check out the 10,000 gallon aquarium to see rare and unique fish, amphibians and reptiles! Get a close-up look at softshell turtles, pallid sturgeon, giant bullfrogs, sportfish and salamanders!

Gavins Point is one of the many hatcheries across the country that raise and safeguard endangered fish and aquatic species for conservation!

5. Go fishing while you bird! (Or is it birding while you fish?)

Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery — Leavenworth, Washington

A deer pauses in a stream. A family of ducks swims past in the distance. Trees with muted fall colors line the banks.
A deer pauses in a stream. A family of ducks swims past in the distance. Trees with muted fall colors line the banks.
Fall colors are lighting up in the Icicle Valley, and wildlife is on the move! Photo courtesy of Andy Jaynes.

Many national fish hatcheries offer great birding and fishing opportunities that are accessible to all ages and abilities. At Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, the Icicle Creek Nature Trail is a one-mile loop trail that is fully accessible and offers an excellent opportunity to see fish and wildlife in their natural environment. This is a National Recreation Trail and part of the Cascade Loop of the Audubon Society’s Great Washington State Birding Trail. It is an enjoyable non-strenuous walk for families and nature enthusiasts.

A dragonfly perches on the tip of a fishing rod.
A dragonfly perches on the tip of a fishing rod.
A Sign of Good Luck — Dragonfly perches on the tip of a fishing rod. Photo By Peter Padelsk.

Want to learn to fish?

People fish for many reasons: spending time and creating memories with family and friends, enjoying the challenge of catching a fish, being outdoors and near water, or for many, just soaking in some quiet solitude. Whatever your reason, now is a great time to enjoy a fall fishing trip!

You could be fishing in just three easy steps:

  1. Get a license. Licensing fees stay local, and support conservation efforts that benefit everyone.
  2. Grab some simple gear, check out our guide to fishing for the first time for tips.
  3. Find some fish!

National Fish Hatchery System

Since 1871 the National Fish Hatchery system has been at work improving recreational fishing and restoring aquatic species that are in decline or at risk. Across the country the network of National Fish Hatcheries work with states and tribes to conserve, restore and enhance the fish and aquatic resources of America for future generations. More than one million people visit a National Fish Hatchery every year to fish, hunt, hike, go birdwatching, and simply enjoy the outdoors. Find a hatchery near you.

Story by Holly Richards, “Fish Enthusiast” and Outreach Specialist for the Fish and Aquatic Conservation program.

We’re dedicated to the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats.