With the hatchery settling into an annual rhythm it’s easy to forget that much of the work we do revolves around the day to day activities of catching, raising and releasing fish. But it really is the bread and butter of our operation so an update of the activities of 2019 wouldn’t be complete without a blog post about the hatchery.
Fry Release Days
In April 52 Houston residents joined with Toboggan Creek Hatchery to release the chunky 15 gram pre-smolt Chinook they raise for the Upper Bulkley River Our annual Goodbye Fry event celebrates both the release of the fry from the hatchery as well as the movement of all the wild salmon fry going into the Skeena to head out into the ocean. After the event there were still 13,000 fish to release so several of us went out with Toboggan creek staff to do a more “industrial” release into the Upper Bulkley. It’s always amazing to see thousands of fish hurtling through the air and then disappear into the murky waters of spring run off and know that you’ve had a very small part in helping them along their journey. And apparently sending them flying is the healthiest way for them to enter the water. Who knew?
Our coho fry are much smaller when we release them at 2 grams and because we only had 800 this spring we did a small volunteer only event giving the fish their freedom at several points around the watershed. In 4 years (2022/23) we’ll see the results of our efforts when they return as spawners.
Capturing Broodstock (aka the parents) can be an arduous task. Sometimes it takes weeks of volunteers walking miles of river just to find them but not this year. This year coho seemed to be spawning in every place there was good habitat! In fact – it was so much fun we were sad to see it end so quickly. Even Luke Wilson, A Rocha’s CEO tried his hand at fishing and helped capture several of the fish we used to run our operation this year.
See here for Luke’s blog about his time in Houston: https://arocha.ca/houston-we-dont-have-a-problem/
Filling the Hatchery
Once the spawners were ready we spent the day stripping the eggs and milt, fertilizing and disinfecting them to give them their best chance and then filled our incubation trays with the most eggs we have ever had in our little hatchery!
Filling our roster at 10,000 eggs it was now time to sit and wait. In a way it’s like being pregnant. There’s not much you can do but give them the conditions they need to grow and then hope for the best. Once the eggs are eyed they are shocked and the eggs that were not fertilized are picked out to prevent disease. Basically the eggs are poured from 18 inches above a bucket of water so that they smack on the water surface. This breaks the shell of eggs that were not fertilized and turns them white making them easier to see. Then the fertilized eggs are returned and it’s time to hurry up and wait again.
During Christmas break we peaked into the troughs to find 8,000+ Christmas babies. The fish have now hatched and are called alevin. Now we wait untilspring when they have absorbed their egg sacs and are ready to swim up. What a way to end the year.
Fish Hatchery in Stats:
27 adults & 25 kids @ Goodbye Fry release event April 27
~500 Chinook pre-smolts released in April 27th from Toboggan Creek Hatchery
800 Coho fry released June 20th from our hatchery 2018/19 brood year
35+ volunteers helped with broodstock capture, shocking and picking, feeding etc.
3 female & 6 male captured from the Upper Bulkley River in fall
10,000+ eggs placed into incubators for 2019/20 season
3 schools in Houston given 100 coho eggs each to raise from our stock