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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
COLEMAN NFH: Service to Release 1.4 Million Chinook Salmon Smolts to San Pablo Bay
Region 8, April 23, 2008

By Alex Pitts

The Coleman National Fish Hatchery will be releasing 1.4 million Chinook salmon smolts in to San Pablo Bay phases between April 22, and May 2, 2008.  The Chinook smolts, 3 inches in length, have been raised at Coleman NFH in Anderson, California as part of the hatchery’s role in mitigating for the Shasta and Keswick dams on the upper Sacramento River. For the first time in over a decade, Coleman NFH will truck 1.4 million of a total of 12.6 million Chinook salmon smolts from the hatchery over 300 miles to San Pablo Bay to assess the effect of the release site on salmon harvest and returns to the hatchery.


The smolts trucked to San Pablo Bay will be placed in net pens operated by the Fishery Foundation of California for acclimatization and then release in to bay.  A portion of the smolts will also be equipped with coded wire tags to identify them as part of this experiment.  As these smolts are harvested or return as adults, fisheries biologists will be able to determine the rate of return on these fish.


Coleman National Fish Hatchery was constructed in 1942 as part of the mitigation measures to help preserve significant runs of Chinook salmon threatened by the loss of natural spawning areas resulting from the construction of Shasta and Keswick dams on the upper Sacramento River.  Therefore, one of the primary goals of the hatchery is to assure that salmon return to the upper Sacramento River. Fall Chinook salmon smolts produced at the Coleman NFH are typically released on-site to afford a complete imprinting cycle during their outmigration to the ocean.  This release strategy increases the likelihood that these fish will: 1) return to the upper Sacramento River as adults for contribution to the upper Sacramento in-river fishery, and 2) return in sufficient numbers back to the hatchery in support of perpetuation of the runs and the programs. An additional and important objective of the hatchery includes contributing to the ocean sport and commercial fishery.  Coleman Hatchery contributes up to 100,000 Chinook annually to the ocean fisheries as well as thousands of fish for the fisheries in the Sacramento River 


Situated on Battle Creek, a small, cold water tributary of the Sacramento River, the hatchery produces 12,000,000 Fall Chinook Salmon, 1,000,000 Late Fall Chinook Salmon, and 600,000 Steelhead Trout annually.  Coleman NFH also has a Coded Wire Tagging Program in which young fish are taken from the raceways to the tagging trailer in an aerated tank. After sedation, fish are adipose fin clipped which is the external mark that identifies coded wire tagged fish. After the fin clip fish are placed in a nose cone and a small wire tag is injected into the cartilaginous portion of the nose. This small tag will remain in place for the entire life of the fish. When these fish return as adults the tag can be removed and read with the aid of a microscope. The coded wire tag code gives the biologist information about which hatchery the fish came from, the year the fish was hatched, tagged, released, and other pertinent information such as parental lineage.

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov