Seasons of Wildlife
We raise Spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Our salmon begin their life in the waters of the Warm Springs River. After about 18 months, they make their way downstream into the Deschutes River and enter the mighty Columbia River. They continue their journey to the Pacific Ocean, where they live for 2-4 years before returning to their natal stream (Warm Springs) to begin the cycle again.
Spring: Smolts are released into the Warm Springs River in April. The adult holding ponds are cleaned and the fish ladder is prepped and opened. Adults return to the hatchery as early as April.
Summer: Adults are sorted and spawned in late August. Fertilized eggs are taken to the nursery to incubate. Spawned adults are sampled for diseases and coded-wire tags are recovered.
Fall: Eggs are sorted, counted, and treated to prevent diseases. The eggs hatch in October after two months incubation. The previous year's fry are marked and tagged.
Winter: The fry are transferred to the outdoor raceways after they absorb their yolk and start on feed. One-year-olds start to smolt, preparing for ocean migration.
Spring Chinook Salmon
When they first arrive in fresh water, spring Chinook are greenish with paler flanks. As spawning approaches they become grayer and darker; spawning males can almost be black. Their bodies are slender and rounded in cross-section, whereas fall Chinook are more slab-sided; this allows spring Chinook to swim more easily in turbulent, fast-flowing water.
Spring Chinook spend 1-5 years at sea. They migrate upriver from March to May and stay in fresh water for weeks or months before they are ready to spawn. Unlike fall Chinook, spring Chinook prefer to spawn in smaller rivers and side streams. Spring Chinook fry spend over a year living in fresh water, and are aggressive to others of their kind.
Spring Chinook used to outnumber fall Chinook in Columbia River catches 2 to 1, but this is no longer the case. Because their fry spend a long time living in streams, spring Chinook have been especially hard-hit by pollution and siltation of stream habitat. Upriver stocks--those that have to pass through several dams--are very low. Lower river stocks have increased since the 1950s, mainly due to hatchey production.