U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatcheries in the Columbia River Gorge this week released over eight million pre-smolt fall chinook salmon into Pacific Northwest rivers.
The fish have been raised from eggs collected and incubated at Spring Creek and Little White Salmon national fish hatcheries for 6 months, and play a role both in supporting area tribal, commercial and recreational fish harvests.
Spring Creek NFH in Underwood, Wash., will release 6.2 million fall “tule” chinook salmon directly into the Columbia River. Little White Salmon NFH, located east of Stevenson, Wash., released 1.8 million tule chinook salmon into the Little White Salmon River and Drano Lake.
The hatchery releases are timed to coincide with the annual outmigration of young salmon to the ocean, a cycle that will begin with the young fish making a downstream journey -- swimming backwards -- to the Pacific Ocean, where they will live for 1-5 more years, then return as adults back to their natal (home) streams, where they spawn and die. They are also timed to coincide with the U.S. Army Corps’ spring spills over Bonneville Dam to maximize survival of juvenile salmon.
Tule fall chinook are important to the fishing economies for both Columbia River tribes and coastal Washington and Oregon communities, such as the Ports of Chinook, Ilwaco, Westport, and Astoria., officials say. They provide a substantial sport fishery at Buoy 10 located at the mouth of the Columbia River, and tule chinook raised at Spring Creek are also an index stock as part of the U.S./Canada Treaty, which governs the establishment ocean harvest levels between the two countries.
Both Spring Creek tule fall chinook and upriver bright fall chinook, another subspecies of fall chinook salmon raised at Little White Salmon Hatchery, are contributors to ocean harvests ranging as far north as coastal British Columbia and Alaska. Harvests of Spring Creek NFH tule fall chinook for brood years 1990-1999 equaled approximately 18,000 and 19,000 fish in the ocean and Columbia River, respectively, with a mean annual return of greater than 19,000 adult fish back to the hatchery. Adult fish recaptured at the hatchery in excess of broodstock needs are provided to area tribes and local food banks.
The programs at Spring Creek and Little White Salmon Hatcheries are funded by NOAA-Fisheries under the Mitchell Act, which authorizes conservation of fish and fishery resources in the Columbia River Basin, and by the John Day Dam Mitigation Act funds provided by the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, which operates John Day Dam on the Columbia River.
For more information go to http://www.fws.gov/gorgefish/littlewhite/