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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

COLEMAN NFH: Coleman National Fish Hatchery Releases 12 million Fall Chinook Smolts

Region 8, April 10, 2013
Fall Chinook Smolts being released into Battle Creek
Fall Chinook Smolts being released into Battle Creek - Photo Credit: n/a

By Kurtis Brown

Fall Chinook salmon are the most abundant run of anadromous salmonids on the Sacramento River next to late-fall Chinook and Rainbow trout steelhead raised at Coleman National Fish Hatchery. Fall Chinook adults returning to the hatchery are spawned in October through mid-November. After the eggs hatch and utilize their yolk supply, they become “button-up” fry and are moved to the raceways. They are reared for about two months before being released into Battle Creek to begin emigration.

On April 10, 2013, 6.2 million smolts were released into Battle Creek, and on April 24 another group of 5.6 million was released. The strategy of releasing groups of this size is believed to increase smolt survival by satiating predators. The  three inch long smolts are pumped directly from the raceways through 6 inch irrigation pipes into Battle Creek directly downstream of the barrier weir. Emigration patterns show that they move downstream rapidly and four days after release the majority of the fish have passed Red Bluff Diversion Dam (RM 243). At one to three weeks post-release fish have been located at RM 90. Based on monitoring at various locations along the river, the emigration rate is roughly nine miles per day.

Beginning with brood year 2006, fall Chinook at Colman NFH have been marked and tagged (cwt) at a rate of 25 percent. The program is referred to as the “constant fractional marking program”. Marking and tagging is conducted by the Pacific States Marine Fish Commission using automated tagging trailers owned by California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Data collected from this program evaluates hatchery contribution to the fishery and smolt survival.

Coleman National Fish Hatchery is located in Anderson, California, on Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River. The hatchery is open for self-guided tours seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to dusk. During the months of October and November guided tours are available for groups on spawning days. For more information, or to schedule a tour please contact the hatchery at (530) 365-8622 or visit their website at http://www.fws.gov/coleman/.

Kurtis Brown is a production biologist at Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson, California.

Contact Info: Kurtis Brown, 530-365-8622 ext.206, kurtis_brown@fws.gov