Hoping your family can learn a little and have fun at the same time? One of the preferred educational Put-in-Bay Attractions is the Aquatic Visitors Center, operated by the Ohio Sea Grant. Learn about Lake Erie aquatic science up close and personal located on Ohio State University’s island campus. From June 20th through August 25th, guests can visit free of charge or pay $4 p/p for a guided group tour.

ODNR Division of Wildlife also provide children, under the age of 16, with fishing gear and bait for free. Fish such as bluegill, bass, yellow perch, and/or pumpkinseed are all available to catch! Families will also learn about the food web during their visit. Round gobies, an invasive species, are caught and fed to the hungry fish in the aquaria daily. Feeding round gobies to the other fish species help maintain the ecosystem balance.

Aquatic Visitor Center History

From 1907 through 1988 the Aquatic Visitor Center served as the official State Fish Hatchery. Prior to 1992, this center wasn’t open to the public. ODNR Division of Wildlife converted the hatchery building into the Aquatic Visitor Center. Now you will find it to be one of the most popular Put-in-Bay Attractions on the island.

This hatchery has raised a variety of fish species over 80 years of operation. Walleye, sauger, whitefish, herring, yellow perch, coho salmon, chinook salmon, and steelhead have all been raised on site. You will also find countless artifacts and photographs on display from days pasts so get on your Put-in-Bay golf cart rental and head on over as soon as you get to the island!


The Aquatic Visitor’s Center also assists with environmental research. You will also find the nation’s oldest biological freshwater field station, Stone Laboratory, nearby. It is located on Gibraltar Island. Guest can learn about the pressing ecological problems facing Lake Erie and current research projects seeking solutions. Walleye tracking, fish population control, fish biology, and aquatic invasive species are all studied in great detail. Based on the research completed, the data can assist in suggesting solutions for the government to consider.

Things to Do at the Aquatic Visitors Center

  • Learn about the Lake Erie ecosystem with hands-on experiments and displays.
  • Explore Lake Eries micro-organisms
  • Observe live Lake Erie fish species
  • Discover the rich history and current Fish Hatchery operations
  • Take a guided tour (for an additional $4 p/p)


Mike D: “I loved learning about fish and fishing! 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.”
Jennifer: “Took the kids to the Bay for a day trip. We heard they had free fishing for the kids. When we arrived we enjoyed walking through the center learning about the fish in the Lake. We also learned about the invasive fish that are being found in the lake. The kids grabbed a pole, they even baited it for them! My kids caught a total of 4 fish! They had a great time everyone was very knowledgeable and friendly. Would definitely recommend it!”
Dee: “Wednesday mornings this summer the staff on Gilbraltar Island offered tours. You take the water taxi from the boardwalk ($3pp each way) and have a 2-hour tour of the island. Cost is $10pp. The great staff offers an overview of the programs that are offered and some of the research at Stone Laboratory that is conducted on the site. Ohio State University owns the entire island and facilities. Cooke’s Castle can be seen on the outside (it awaits interior restoration) and the staff shares great truths and myths that the island offers. We have visited the island many times and this was our first opportunity to visit the island…well worth our time and money!!!”

Once you’re visiting is over, consider renting a kayak. Kayak The Bay is very close to the Aquatic Visitor Center. This is the perfect way to take what you learned and explore Lake Erie even further. Hope you enjoy your fun learning experience!

You might want to stay an extra day with so many things to do in Put-in-Bay! There is plenty to do on the island for all ages so check out our lodging at our Put-in-Bay resort, hotels, condo, and rentals. The sooner you book, the sooner you can get on a Put-in-Bay ferry!



Aquatic Visitors Center, 310 OH-357, Put-In-Bay, OH 43456, USA

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