The ODFW Visitors' Guide
We're Glad You Asked
Hatchery Questions | Wildlife Area Questions
Q. What are the Key Roles of Hatcheries?
A. Hatcheries Support:
Supplementation, which routs a portion of imperiled wild population through a hatchery for part of its life cycle to gain a temporary survival boost
Salmon Alevins (Sac Fry)
- Restoration, which outplants suitable non-local hatchery-produced or naturally-produced native fish to establish a population in habitat currently vacant for that native species
- Captive broodstock collection, which takes some or all of an imperiled wild population into a protective hatchery environment for its entire life cycle to maximize survival and the number of progeny produced
- Captive Rearing, which takes a portion of an imperiled wild population into a protective hatchery environment for only that part of its life cycle that cannot be sustained in the wild
- Egg Banking, which temporarily removes a naturally produced native fish population from a habitat that cannot sustain it and relocates the population to another natural or artificial area that can support the population
- Cryopreservation, which freezes sperm from naturally produced native fish for later use in conservation hatchery programs
- Research, which investigates and resolves uncertainties relating to the responsible use of hatcheries as a management tool for fish conservation and use
Q. What are the primary fish species reared at hatcheries?
A. Chinook: Also known as king salmon, these fish migrate to sea after one year in the hatchery. They return to the hatchery after three or four years in the ocean. Their average weight at spawning is 10-45 pounds. Some species return in the fall, others in the spring. All chinook spawn in September, October or November.
Coho: Also known as silver salmon, these fish are released from the hatchery after 18 months. Adult coho return at age three after more than a year at sea. An average coho weighs about eight pounds when it returns to spawn in the fall.
Steelhead: Steelhead are rainbow trout that go to sea. They are released from hatcheries at about one year of age and spend up to four years at sea before returning to spawn in freshwater. Different strains of steelhead return at different times of the year, but most spawn in late winter. An average steelhead weighs about six pounds.
Trout: Rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout are the principle hatchery species. With the exception of cutthroat trout, these fish spend their lives in freshwater. ODFW raises and releases more than 7 million trout annually. Eggs for production are either taken from brood fish held in the hatchery or from fish trapped and spawned in the wild.
Q. What happens to adult salmon and steelhead after they return to the hatchery?
A. In the wild, salmon die naturally after spawning. At hatcheries, workers euthanize the fish before removing eggs from females and extracting milt, or sperm, from males. Eggs and sperm are mixed, then placed in special incubators. Development from a fertilized egg to a small swimming fish, called fry, takes about two months.
Steelhead are sometimes euthanized prior to spawning, but not always. Some fish may be released back into the river.
Trout hatcheries maintain brood stocks of adult fish that may provide eggs and sperm for several years. ODFW often releases the oldest trout, some weighing five pounds or more, into local ponds for people to catch.
Q. When is the best time to visit a hatchery?
A. Fall and early winter are the busiest and most interesting times at salmon and steelhead hatcheries. That's when the adults are in the holding ponds and spawning is under way. Spring and early summer are the peak activity times at trout hatcheries. Spawning and most fish stocking operations occur during those months.
- Photo by Robert Mutch -
Q. Why does Oregon set aside lands for Wildlife?
A. In general Oregon has a lot of land that serves the needs of wildlife very well. Even so, some special requirements are in short supply. Sometimes the only way to preserve such places is to publicly manage them.
Wetlands, for example, are necessary for waterfowl such as ducks and geese. These are the places where migrating birds rest and feed during their spring and fall travels. Many birds also nest and raise their young in wetlands.
Deer and elk need places to go during winter to find shelter and food. These winter ranges are critical to maintaining healthy herds and preventing animals from moving onto and damaging agricultural lands.
Q. Are wildlife areas set aside for both hunted and non-hunted wildlife?
A. Yes. The same wetlands, winter ranges and other areas that serve game species also meet the needs of other wildlife. Wetlands, for example, provide major resting, wintering and breeding areas for species as diverse as shore birds and bald eagles. Woodpeckers and hawks thrive on many of the upland wildlife areas. Hunter dollars pay for purchase and maintenance of these areas, but the benefits go to all species. Many of these areas also are popular with people who do not hunt, but would rather hike, fish and view wildlife.
Q. Does buying property for a public wildlife area take money from the county property tax tolls and local service districts?
A. No. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife pays more than $180,000 each year in what are called "in lieu of" taxes or assessments for wildlife area lands. This equals the amount that would have been paid to counties and service districts if the lands were privately owned. In addition, wildlife areas generate economic benefits for counties and local communities. Most sites attract visitors who spend money in local communities, whether they are hunters in the fall or hikers and wildlife viewers year-round.
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