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Fish returning to hatcheries

H&N photo by Jill Aho
Salmon eggs are spread so they can be counted at Iron Gate Hatchery.

Chinook salmon numbers are average at Iron Gate Hatchery

By JILL AHO, Herald and News 10/26/08

The fall chinook salmon are returning in average numbers to the Iron Gate Hatchery on the Klamath River in California, and other migratory species are on their way to hatcheries and spawning grounds in the area, according to local officials.

The migratory fish begin life in freshwater streams along the Pacific coast, spending between three months and two years in freshwater before making the trek to the ocean. They live there two to four years on average before returning to the place of their birth to spawn.

Iron Gate, which rears fall chinook and coho salmon and steelhead, has seen about 17,000 chinook return so far, said Hatchery Manager Kim Rushton. He said the first coho arrived at the facility Wednesday, and more should be showing up soon.

“There’s more, bigger fish this year,” Rushton said. “We’ve had no trouble meeting our egg take goals.”

Releases planned

The hatchery will release 5.1 million fingerling chinook in late spring, and another 900,000 yearlings in mid-November. The hatchery also raises 75,000 coho and 200,000 steelhead. However, not all of the fish return to the hatchery to spawn, Rushton said.

“It’s natural for both wild and hatchery fish to stray somewhat,” he said. “It helps keep the genetic pool diverse.”

In Bogus Creek, which runs alongside the hatchery, Rushton is sure there is co-mingling.

At Cole M. Rivers Hatchery on the Rogue River, the spring chinook have pretty much stopped returning, said assistant manager David Pease. Summer steelhead are about 1,000 fish behind this time last year, and coho are expected to start arriving soon.

“From the reports of steelhead fishing, it sounds like things are on the rise,” Pease said.

Although the Cole M. Rivers Hatchery will not be doing any spawning at this time of year, wild adults can be seen in the rivers, and the hatchery is busy marking the fins of fish. Unlike California, where just a percentage of hatchery fish are marked, Oregon requires 100 percent marking of hatchery steelhead and coho salmon.

Public can watch

The public can watch what goes on in the hatchery from an observation deck, observe fish in the 87 raceways and do some bird-watching if they choose to visit.

At the Klamath Hatchery, brown salmon eggs and rainbow trout eggs are being incubated; no spawning takes place at the facility. Rainbow trout can be spotted spawning in Crooked Creek, which can be seen from a viewing deck at the facility, said foreman Regen Armstrong.

The hatchery releases somewhere between 1.2 and 1.5 million trout each year. The hatchery will move some fish into its show pond Nov. 1, where the public can observe trophy-size trout. This hatchery stocks Fourmile Lake and Lake of the Woods.

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