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Put-in-Bay Aquatic Center

Put-In-Bay- Aquatic Center Open For Summer Tourists

Summer tourists at Put-in-Bay can swing out to the west side of town to drop a line in Lake Erie and get a close-up view of Lake Erie’s fishes and interactive exhibits at The Ohio State University’s Aquatic Center. Located a mile west of downtown Put-in-Bay close to all put-in-bay hotels, the Aquatic Visitors Center lets visitors experience Lake Erie science through up-close and hands-on exhibits that include several native Lake Erie fish and invasive species like Asian carp.

Families can inspect Lake Erie’s complex ecosystem through displays, observe fish and other Lake Erie inhabitants in large aquaria, and learn about current Lake Erie research.

At The Put-in-Bay Aquatic Center, Kids Fish Free!

One of the most popular Put-in-Bay Attractions is that children under 16 can borrow equipment and fish from the pier free of charge. The center and free admission are open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, June 20 to August 18. “Lake Erie is a largely important resource to our region and provides tons of opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors,” says Tory Gabriel, Ottawa County Extension Educator.

“The Aquatic Center is one of those opportunities. Visitors should stop by to get their kids excited about fishing and science, and they can ask our expert staff any questions you’ve ever had about Lake Erie. There’s something for everybody at the Aquatic Center.”

Educational, Fun & FREE! The Aquatic Center Is a Hit With Kids!

Visitors can learn about the Aquatic Centers’ history as the State Fish Hatchery at Put-in-Bay from 1907 through 1988 and see hatching jars, raceways, and other artifacts from those days. Currently operated by Ohio Sea Grant, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife, the hatchery-raised a variety of fish species, including walleye, sauger, whitefish, herring, yellow perch, coho salmon, chinook salmon, and steelhead.

Also, at the Aquatic Center, visitors can search for a geocache, a small hidden container with its coordinates available online. Nearly 100 people have plugged the coordinates into their GPS or smartphone and tracked down the container, which holds a finders’ log and some assorted prizes that are free to the finders.

“The Aquatic Visitors Center is probably our largest outreach venue during the high traffic tourist season, reaching more than 10,000 Put-in-Bay island visitors each year,” says Kristin Stanford, Stone Lab Outreach and Education Coordinator. “What a fantastic way to get the word out about all the great things Ohio Sea
Grant is doing.”

In 1992, the ODNR Division of Wildlife converted the hatchery building into the Aquatic Center—an educational facility to bring history, fishing information, and hands-on activities to the public.

Ohio Sea Grant took over management of the center in 2009, continuing to teach the next generation about the importance of protecting Lake Erie. Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 32 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. The Ohio State University owns and manages Gibraltar Island and the South Bass Island Lighthouse and operates the AVC through a partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources



Aquatic Center Research

Lake Erie is an enchanted place appreciated by thousands of tourists every year. However, there are still pressing problems confronting this area. The Ohio Sea Grant and the ODNR Division of Wildlife spearheaded the research in conjunction with Stone Laboratory.Visitors to the Aquatic Center can learn about the recent research projects a devoted team of students and scientists conducted. Among the many tasks are investigations into tracking walleye, invasive aquatic species, fish biology, and dead zones.

Activities At The Aquatic Center

• Fishing on The pier,
• Closely observe Lake Erie fish species
• Ask Aquatic Visitors Center experts questions about this special ecosystem
• Learn about how fish reproduce and what’s being done to protect their numbers
• Learn about all the current research being done to protect Lake Erie
• Investigate Lake Erie’s complex ecosystem with activities

Children under 16 are welcome to fish on the pier for free. This engaging feature allows kids to perfect their fishing skills. They also learn about the food web and the damage that invasive species can do in the lake. The ODNR also provides fishing gear onsite.

Fish Species at the Fishing Pier

• Yellow Perch
• Small & Large Mouth Bass
• Pumpkinseed
• Blue Gill

One of the greatest dangers to Lake Erie is the Round Goby. This fish can survive in both saltwater and fresh water. An assertive fish, gobies contend with other fish species for food and space. Luckily, water snakes and walleyes love to eat gobies. If you capture a goby, don’t throw it back! It can be fed to the fish accommodated at the center.

Aquatic Center Children’s Programs

Summers at the Aquatic Center feature programs for youngsters almost every Saturday on the dock. The crew at the center develops agendas based around fun topics and fascinating exhibits. Some previous programs included:

• What Is Plankton
• Underwater Explorations
• Fun With Fish
• Bugs in the Water
• Live Snake Shows
• Our Friends the Spider
• Taking Care of Lake Erie’s Fish
• Birds of the Lake Erie Islands
• Animals of the Lake Erie Watershed


The Aquatic Visitors Center is on Put-in-Bay’s northern end, right by Peach Orchard Point. The address is 360 West Shore Blvd. Also, a quick walk from downtown, a visit is free for the whole family. Guided tours cost $4. You can easily find Bayview Avenue by locating the Topsy Turvey Restaurant in town and keeping the waterfront to you right going out of town. The exhibit has no dining facilities, so stopping to eat at nearby Mossbacks Restaurant or Tippers Restaurant might be a good action plan.

360 W Shore Blvd. Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

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Brett S

Aquatic Center was a cool place to learn about fish and see live fish in tanks. They had all kinds of giant live fish from Lake Erie and a lot of information about the Hatchery that used to be there. It was awesome and better yet it was FREE. They also offered free fishing for kids under 15.

Julie V.

Amazing views and such great staff! We will be back to see the completed renovations.

Brad H.

Nice little Aquatic center. Great place to stop with kids, they offer free fishing on the pier behind the building. Friendly and knowledgeable staff. The location is close to town.

Lana P.

The Aquatic Center used to be a working fish hatchery now it's a museum. Kids can fish off the dock for free pretty interesting place and the staff was very friendly!

Angela P.

The Aquatic Center is a great place to visit and take some time learning about Put-in-Bays "aquatic world". I happened to stumble across the resource center and I truly enjoyed it. Very informative and actually quite interesting.

Mike D.

We stopped by on a day we rented a golf cart. Out of the way from most of the hustle and bustle of the island. Nice little inside learning center with fish tanks and info on breeding. Outside on the dock, they have free fishing for the kiddos. Didn't catch anything but they had a great time. Nice little out-of-the-way surprise.

Melinda Y.

It is great to see our natural Ohio and Lake Erie resources showcased by OSU students. Free fishing for youngsters, and feed the invasive gobies to the resident Great Blue Heron. We saw gar right off the dock and the facility is great for the whole family.