Education - Let's Go Outside!
Visiting the Hatchery:
Makah National Fish Hatchery is open daily from 7:30 until 4:00. We
are happy to arrange tours for groups of all sizes. Please call
360-645-2521 to schedule a tour if you are interested. The hatchery
staff is also willing to answer questions from visitors.
One of the most interesting hatchery activities for visitors to watch is spawning. This occurs from early October through the end of December. Our usual activity day is Wednesday, with fish handling beginning about 9:00 and typically wrapping up around noon. If you want to be sure to catch the activity, please call ahead to confirm the schedule – we occasionally make adjustments depending on the number of fish returned, weather and staff availability.
The Annual Cycle:
The operations at the hatchery are focused around the natural life
cycles of the salmon we rear. It is our goal to match the natural
growth stages and timing as much as possible and preserve the local characteristics
of the stocks we work with. This helps to ensure that they stay
well matched to their Sooes River habitat and are fit to contribute to
the restoration of the native stocks. This means that there are
times of the year when there is not much dramatic activity going on,
while at other times, such as during spawning season, there are fish
and activity everywhere.
Winter (Jan/Feb/Mar): Most of the spawning activity is over, save
for a few late returning steelhead. The incubators are full of
eggs and, as the months progress, the eggs will eye up, be sorted to
remove those that are not viable, and hatch. Buttoned-up chinook
and coho fry will be moved outside to the raceways and feeding will begin. Steelhead
will be ponded initially in the troughs inside the hatchery building
because of both space limitations outside and their smaller initial size. Yearling
coho and steelhead, still on-station from the previous years spawning
activity, are approaching smolting and will be ad-marked.
Spring (April/May/June): Yearling coho and steelhead will be either
released on station or transferred to Educket Creek for several weeks
of acclimation and then released into the Wa’atch watershed. Chinook
fingerlings will be ad-marked and a portion of them will also be coded
wire tagged to provide more detailed information about the origin of
fish caught in the fisheries all up the coast and into Alaskan waters. As
the season progresses the chinook will smolt and be released in late
May or Early June. Young of the year steelhead will be moved into
the outside raceways, where the coho young of the year are already, and
both groups will be tended and fed. Both coho and steelhead will
be split into additional raceways as they grow and approach the capacity
limitations of the raceways.
Summer (July/August/September): Quiet time at the hatchery. Current
year classes of coho and steelhead will be tended and watched for any
problems that may develop from high water temperatures and/or limited
water supply. While this is an area that receives a lot of rain,
sometimes the summer months can be very dry and result in difficult conditions
for the hatchery water supply. Many hatchery maintenance projects
are accomplished at this time – grounds are tended, buildings are
painted and maintained, pumps and pipes and other essential equipment
is checked and repaired as needed. Any major construction projects
are also completed during this window of opportunity.
Fall (October/November/December): The adult chinook start returning
to the hatchery first, usually in September if the river levels are good,
followed several weeks later by the coho and then the steelhead. Fish
return up the fish ladder and into the hatchery, where they are sorted
by species and ripeness and either spawned, returned to holding, or released
upstream of the weir to spawn naturally. Eggs are taken, fertilized
and set down to incubate in Heath Tray stacks. The spawned carcasses
are sampled for diseases and to recover coded wire tags.