In many ways, the life histories
of the five Pacific salmon (chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, and pink)
are similar. All are born in fresh water and spend their early lives
phase), migrate to the sea (ocean phase) where they grow
to adult size and then return to their home streams to spawn and lay
their eggs. All pacific salmon die after they spawn and lay their eggs.
The fish carcasses provide nutrients to other animals such as the eagle,
bear, river otter and insects. The insects are a source of food when
the new fish emerge from their gravel nest.
Length: Ranges from 10 to
32 inches. Weight: 6 lbs average; 25 lbs 5.44 ounces record sport catch
in saltwater in the state of Washington by Martin Cooper, Sekiu in
2001. Identifying features: When the fish first enter the fish hatchery
and when they are in the ocean, they are silvery. They have small black
spots on their backs and upper lobe of the tail fin. The gums at the
base of the teeth are white. An amazing transformation takes place when they are
ready to spawn. Males sport bright red flanks, dark heads, bellies
and backs; females display a much paler version of the same color as
the male. Males' jaws become grotesquely hooked. The gums are white - very
noticeable when the fish are in their dark spawning colors. Life history:
Most coho spend 1.5 years in fresh water and 1.5 years at sea, although
a small percentage of males, called "jacks," stay only 6 months in
salt water. Unlike other salmon fry, young coho are colorful, with
orange bellies and black and white bordered fins. Their colors aid
them in territorial displays; they are the most aggressive of all salmon
fry, both to their own and other species. Once in the oceans, they
range from northern California to Alaska. Coho are very powerful, and can jump
waterfalls that most salmon cannot negotiate. They migrate back to
their home stream in late summer and fall then spawn from September
through the beginning of November. An average of
6.2% of the fish released from Quilcene NFH survive to return
to the hatchery or are caught in the near shore fisheries off the coast
of Canada and Washington.
Steelhead, Steelhead trout, or sea-run rainbow trout
Scientific Name: Oncorhychus mykiss
Steelhead are the anadromous form
of rainbow trout. Their common names comes from the steel-blue color
of the head, especially when in salt water. The general body coloration
is metallic-blue on dorsal surfaces, silvery on the sides and belly,
with black spots on the dorsal and caudal fins. The spots are less
distinct in salt water or fresh from the sea. Adults, particularly males,
darken in fresh water as they approach spawning and develop the characteristic
rainbow trout pink/red band along their sides and pink coloration on
the opercles (gill covers). Juvenile steelhead can be differentiated
from coastal cutthroat by their shorter head, compressed body, absence
of teeth on the back of the tongue, absence of a red slash below the
lower jaw and lighter edges on the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. Rainbow
and steelhead usually have 11 or 12 (range 9 - 11) in cutthroat.
Size: Length to 45 inches and weight to 43 pounds. State Sport Record:
Summer -run November 23, 1973; 35 pounds 1 ounce; Snake river. Winter
run; April 14, 1980 ; 32 pounds 12 ounces; East Fork Lewis River .
Life Facts: Steelhead spend most of their marine lives well offshore
in the North Pacific. They live for 1 -3 years in
fresh water before migrating to the sea, and typically mature in their
third, fourth or fifth year of life. Although steelhead are capable of
spawning more than once, most are too weak to make the perilous journey
back to the ocean. Most Washington sport catches are dependent upon fish
entering the streams during the winter months, but some rivers, notably
the Columbia system, also contain larger numbers of summer - run fish.
Most steelhead taken from salt water are caught incidentally while fishing
for salmon, although they are targeted at some Puget Sound beaches
Summer Chum Salmon
Length: Ranges from 20 to
35 inches Weight: 8 lb. average Identifying features: When the adult
fish are in the ocean , they are silvery.
These fish go through the same transformation that the coho salmon
undergo when they are ready to spawn. Spawning males are dark olive
green and develop reddish purpose vertical bars on their flanks; spawning
females are dark olive green and have a reddish purple lateral band.
Males' jaws become grotesquely hooked and have large canine teeth.
Life History: The freshwater part of the cycle of chum salmon lasts
only a few months before they smolt and
migrate downstream to the ocean. They can be found from California to Alaska, remaining in the ocean until they are
3-4 years old. Returning to their streams and rivers of origin, they
spawn and die. Chum salmon have been very important to the Japanese
fishery and their eggs are considered a delicacy. Native Americans
called chum "dog salmon" because of their teeth and valued the meat
because it could be preserved for a very long time by smoking it. The
summer chum run was listed by the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife as a depressed stock in 1991. The
USFWS and partner organizations began a rearing program in 1992 to
help restore this fish run to healthy levels. The Hood Canal summer chum was listed under the Endangered
Species Act as a "threatened" species in 1999. Together with our partners
we concentrated on helping this species recover from this threatened
status. A successful summer chum salmon recovery program was initiated
in 1992 prior to the 1999 listing. This program involved cooperation
of the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery, Western Washington Fish & Wildlife
Office, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Point No Point Treaty tribes.
This successful program was conducted without additional funds and
demonstrates the commitment of these groups to work together for an
The summer chum recovery
program lasted 12 years. The fish returns are being monitored, and
in the event that the summer chum runs decline in the future, the hatchery
and its partners can once again intervene.
Please refer to the following
4. http://www.nwifc.org/recovery/ -
Type in Summer Chum in the search box
Fish Then and Now
When hatcheries first began operating, there were also many
questions dealing with fish diseases. What caused them? How could they
be prevented? How are sick fish treated ? Research
has answered some of these questions, and we continue to evaluate and
update our growing knowledge. Today fish pathologists routinely monitor
our fish and are available on call to address any abnormal fish behavior
or elevation in mortality. Abnormal behavior can be an indication of
the fish starting to get sick. The fish pathologist then recommends treatments
for specific fish diseases and gives advice on how to prevent or minimize
the impacts of disease on fish populations.
Adult coho and chum salmon
return to the hatchery from September through December after spending
1 to 4 years in the ocean. At Quilcene NFH an electric fish weir guides
them to the fish ladder and into the holding pond. Each fish is hand
checked, separating those ready to spawn from unripe fish. Unripe fish
are returned to the pond and checked weekly until they are ready to
spawn. In nature all Pacific salmon die after spawning, so ripe fish
are killed to collect milt (sperm) from male salmon and eggs from the
females. Fish are spawned according to genetic guidelines which will
guarantee the long-term survival of that particular species.
Female fish are cut open
to release their eggs. Milt is stripped from a male and mixed with
the eggs. A little water is added to the eggs and milt mixture to help
activate the sperm, and fertilization takes place almost immediately.
Samples taken throughout the egg collection process are checked
for diseases by a fish pathologist to insure healthy offspring.
Fertilized eggs are taken
to the incubation building, disinfected and poured into incubator trays.
Clean, cold oxygen-rich water runs continuously through the incubators
imitating the flow of a natural stream environment.
Hatcheries provide a safe
environment for the development of salmon eggs, sac fry, fingerlings
and smolts. Hatcheries can increase the survival rate of salmon
through the smolt stage in their life cycle.
In the wild, up to 85 percent of the eggs do not survive to the fry
state. Hatchery loss to the same fry stage is about 10 percent, potentially
greatly increasing the number of returning adults.
The warmer the water temperature,
the faster the eggs develop, but if the water gets too warm, fish diseases
can develop. After about 50 days at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the eggs
hatch into sac fry, with sacs of egg yolk attached to their bellies.
The yolk sustains the fish for several weeks (the fish are not fed
during this time). In the wild, they would stay hidden in their gravel
When the yolk is completely absorbed, the
young salmon are called "buttoned up" or fry. They are transferred to
nursery tanks or outdoor raceways and are fed nutritious food pellets
containing fish, grain meal and vitamins. A fish pathologist checks the
fish monthly, watching for any diseases. At or before eighteen months,
depending on the species, the tail lengthens, juvenile spots disappear,
and the fish, now called "smolts" are ready to migrate to salt water. Their
adipose fin, a small fin near the tail, is removed to identify them as
hatchery fish and some are tagged with a coded wire for research purposes
in a specially designed trailer. Visitors are welcome to observe this
Hatchery smolts are
released in the Spring (May), matching the
wild smolt migration. Instinct drives the fish downstream to
salt water where they linger in the estuaries, areas where fresh and
salt water mix, for several weeks. Acclimated to salt water, they head
out to sea. In about 1 to 4 years, depending upon the species, they
return to the Big Quilcene River to begin the cycle again.