Coleman National Fish Hatchery
California and Nevada Region
Hatchery Happenings
Visitors enjoying the Salmon Festival held at Coleman National Fish Hatchery.

Visitors enjoying the Salmon Festival held at Coleman National Fish Hatchery.
Source: USFWS

Fish Returns:
Approximately 1% of released hatchery fish return to the Battle Creek. Most of these fish make it to the hatchery, however some may spawn in the creek and others die before finishing their journey.

Events: 2016 Salmon Festival Flier
On the third Saturday in October each year Coleman National Fish Hatchery celebrates the annual Return of the Salmon Festival.  This festival has been celebrated at the hatchery since 1991 in an effort to increase outreach and visitor use; during this one day festival thousands of people visit the hatchery. This festival is free and has many booths from Federal, State and private exhibitors that provide a wide array of information related to natural resources. Visitors at the festival can view fall Chinook salmon returning to Battle Creek and the hatchery, and may observe all aspects of day-to-day hatchery operations such as spawning, egg incubation, and juvenile rearing. Visual information sites are located on the hatchery grounds to provide a narrative for visitors to understand life history, habitat requirements, and other biological information.

Tagging machines in the automated tagging trailer.
Source: USFWS

Research and Projects - Coded Wire Tagging Program:
Young fish are are pumped from the raceways into the tagging trailer. Once in the trailer fish are sorted by size and sent to each tagging station. The automated machines sense the fishes size, and fin location.  It then clips the adipose-fin and injects a small wire tag into the cartilaginous portion of the fishes 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 will give biologists information about where the fish came from (the hatchery location), the year the fish was hatched, where it was released, and other pertinent information such as parental lineage. Once tagged, the fish are returned to a raceway for final growout.

 

 

 

 

A hatchery employees throws fish food across a raceway to feed the fish.

A hatchery employees throws fish food across a raceway to feed the fish.
Source: USFWS

 

 

 

Self-Guided Tour:
1. Hatchery Building – This building houses all of the egg hatching trays (egg stacks) and tanks for newly hatched fish. Water flows into the egg stacks at the top, through each tray and then out of the bottom. Approximately five weeks after fertilization the egg hatches into a yolk-sac fry. This yolk-sac is the sole source of food for these juvenile fish, and the fish remain in the stacks until the yolk-sac has been absorbed (approximately 5-6 more weeks). Ideal temperature for the eggs and young fish is 54○F. After the yolk-sac is absorbed young salmon fry are placed outside in the raceways (see #2) and young steelhead fry are placed in the green tanks, in the middle of this building, where they remain until mid-June when they are put into outside raceways.

2. Large Rearing Raceways – Juvenile salmon and steelhead are placed in these ponds from the hatchery building (see #1). They are fed a diet rich in protein, primarily made-up of fish meal with supplemental vitamins and minerals. The tent-like structures you see over the raceways help provide shade for the small fish as they grow. Feel free to look in the ponds, but please stay off of the metal walkways between the raceways.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife personnel and volunteers prepare to spawn Chinook salmon.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife personnel and volunteers prepare to spawn Chinook salmon.
Source: USFWS

3. Spawning and Visitor Viewing Area – During the spawning season (October through February) you will see spawning activities (contact the office for information on specific spawning days). The adult fish, typically 2-4 years old, are anesthetized with carbon dioxide and checked for ripeness on the sorting table. The ripe salmon are killed and sorted into males and females for spawning. The “green”, or unripe, fish are sent back out to a holding pond (see #4) for spawning at a future date. From the spawning table fish are spawned, eggs are put into a bucket, rinsed with fresh water and then transported to the hatchery building (see #1) where they are raised until they are put into the outside raceways (see #2).

4. Holding Ponds – Fish enter these ponds, via the fish ladder, from Battle Creek. During the spawning season you will see both salmon and steelhead in these ponds which will be sorted once they enter the hatchery. You may also see fish with white fuzzy spots on their back and head. This is a result of a common water-borne fungus that invades wounds on the skin of the fish.

 

A salmon fights the current on it's way home to spawn.
Source: USFWS

5. Fish Ladder – Follow the arrows on the map to the viewing platform located along the banks of Battle Creek. Along the way, you will pass over a few of the many cells of the fish ladder that allows fish in the creek to enter the hatchery. The entrance to the fish ladder is located on the upstream side of the viewing platform. You may see fish attempting to jump over the barrier weir that spans the width of Battle Creek; that weir is designed to prevent fish from passing upstream and instead encourage those fish enter the hatchery. The fish ladder is a long series of cells that winds around from the creek into the hatchery holding pond (see #4). The fish ladder has many baffles and deep pools that allow fish to rest as they move upstream in the ladder.

6. Battle Creek – Battle Creek originates near Lassen Peak and is fed by snow melt and a series of natural springs. The Creek flows down through the foothills and into the Sacramento River near Cottonwood, CA. Salmon and steelhead come into the creek from the Sacramento River which is located about 5.8 miles downstream of the hatchery. By the time the fish reach the hatchery they have swam at least 277 miles to get here (271 in the river and almost 6 in the creek)-that’s an exhausting journey!

7. Water Treatment Facility (Ozone generation plant) – Water entering the hatchery comes from Battle Creek and contains bacteria, viruses and parasites that can be harmful to fish. Before the water is used for fish culture it is filtered and treated with ozone to kill all the disease organisms.

Last updated: April 18, 2017