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Our Species

Coho hatchlings Credit Florian Granger

We raise salmon and steelhead at our hatcheries, and we work with native fish regionally.

    Hatchery Raised Species 

  • Spring Chinook Salmon

    Spring Chinook salmon

    Spring Chinook salmon are raised at Winthrop and Leavenworth hatcheries for the first 18 months of their lives. These salmon are released from the hatchery raceways to nearby rivers in April. From there, they begin an arduous journey down the Columbia River. Leavenworth fish travel 500 miles and pass 7 major hydropower dams to reach the Pacific Ocean. Winthrop salmon must travel 600 miles and pass 9 dams.

    One to three years later they will return as adults to spawn, travelling upstream through the Columbia River to where they began. Adult spring Chinook salmon enter the Columbia River from March through May and arrive in May and June. At that point they make their last big push up the hatchery fish ladder into the holding ponds where they will live out the rest of their days before they are ready to spawn and create a new generation of fish. Spawning of these fish occurs in mid-August through early September each year.

    Only 1,000 adult spring Chinook salmon are needed for spawning at Leavenworth, with the goal of releasing 1.2 million smolt. 400 adults are needed at Winthrop to produce 400,000 smolts to the Methow, while 220,000 eyed eggs are provided to Chief Joseph Fish Hatchery (run by the Colville Tribe) for rearing there and eventual release to the Okanogan River. Other adult fish provide opportunities for sport and tribal fisheries in Icicle Creek, the Methow River, and the lower Columbia River.

    Learn more... Read here about the genetic marker unique to early migrators like spring Chinook...
  • Summer Chinook Salmon

    Pacific lamprey adult

    Beginning in the fall of 2009, the Entiat National Fish Hatchery began raising summer Chinook salmon. The program was initiated with eggs from Wells Fish Hatchery. The goal of the program is to annually release 400,000 smolts from the reproduction of approximately 150 pairs of adult summer Chinook salmon. The migration corridor for released smolts and returning adult fish includes approximately 491 river miles and the Pacific Ocean. The program is intended to function as a segregated program for harvest benefits. Fish from this program are not intended to spawn naturally and are not intended to establish, supplement, or support any summer Chinook salmon populations occurring in the natural environment.

    In 2015, returning numbers were strong enough for a fishery to open for recreational anglers!

    Learn more...
  • Steelhead

    Methow wild steelhead

    Winthrop NFH partners with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildife to collect and raise steelhead. Steelhead are the sea-run form of rainbow trout. Juvenile steelhead are raised at Winthrop for the first 2 years of their lives. They are released from the hatchery into the Methow River. After one to two years in the ocean, they return as adults. Returning adult steelhead from this hatchery often contribute to successful local sport fisheries on the Methow River.

    Adult steelhead spend 1-2 years in salt water before they enter the Columbia River in June through September. Spawning of these fish occurs at Winthrop from April through mid-May of the following spring.

    Unlike salmon, some steelhead survive to spawn again, although only about 3%. Nine dams impede the return to Winthrop, so the Yakama Nation collects live wild females after spawning and reconditions them at Winthrop NFH. They are released again in October to rejoin the spawning population.

    Learn more...
  • Coho Salmon

    Freshwater mussel

    Coho salmon became extinct in the Upper Columbia River Basin following the construction of several hydroelectric projects (dams), prior to the initial construction of Grand Coulee Dam in 1933 (Mullan, 1984). The program at Winthrop is part of a coho restoration feasibility study initiated by the Yakama Nation. Spawning of these fish at Winthrop occurs in November.

    The Yakama Nation spawns and releases coho at Leavenworth also.

    Learn more...
  • Priority Native Species

  • Bull Trout

    Bull trout

    Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) are found throughout the Columbia River Basin. They were among the first colonizers of rivers as the Ice Age drew to a close, contributing to genetic variation between areas. For many years, they were targeted as "vermin," thought to reduce salmon numbers; but this was a misunderstanding of our fellow predators.

    Bull trout are highly adaptible. Some on the Olympic Peninsula and in Puget Sound are anadromous, spending three months at sea. Those in the Columbia River Basin migrate within the drainage. They need migratory corridors, so dams are challenging. They are listed as threatened by both the U.S. and Washington State.

    Learn more...
  • Lamprey


    Pacific lamprey is a jawless fish species that is native to the Pacific Northwest. Once abundant, and a vital part of streambed health, lamprey may be declining. Counts of Pacific lamprey at Columbia River dams show reduced numbers of adult lamprey migrating upstream, and distribution surveys indicate lamprey are absent from many rivers they historically inhabited. They are a species of concern, and four lamprey species (Pacific lamprey, Lampetra tridentata; western brook lamprey, L. richardsoni; river lamprey, L. ayresi; and Kern brook lamprey, L. hubbsi) were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2003.

    Lamprey have a life cycle similar to salmon: they are born in freshwater streams, travel out to the ocean, then return to spawn and die. Unlike salmon, they are weak swimmers and struggle to negotiate fish ladders to bypass dams. Visit the Fish Passage Center's website to see how many lamprey have been counted at Columbia River dams.

    There is much unknown about lamprey. The Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (MCFWCO) is a member of the USFWS Western Lampreys Conservation Team. We have multiple projects underway to learn more about these primitive fish. Much of the conservation work for Pacific lamprey has focused on answering fundamental questions about their life history, behavior, abundance, and distribution.

    Learn more from the USFWS Pacific lamprey website...
  • Other Species

  • Beaver

    Beavers are temporary residents of Winthrop NFH for part of the year, as part of a project to reintroduce the animals to high elevation habitat. Beaver dams help hold water longer , and keep water flowing from them cooler in summer. Their presence creates better habitat for fish like steelhead. This holistic, ecosystems-based approach to habitat improvement has multiple benefits and involves many partners. As of 2018, beavers can also be found in unused fish ponds at Leavenworth NFH in summer, part of the Wenatchee Beaver Project managed by Trout Unlimited.

    Learn more at Pacific Biodiversity Institute...
    Learn more at Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation...

    Learn more at Wenatchee Beaver Project Facebook page...
    Beaver at hatchery
  • Aquatic Nuisance Species

    DidymoInvasive species, including aquatic nuisance species (ANS), are defined as species that have caused or have the potential to cause significant economic or environmental harm or present a threat to human health. MCFWCO works to assist the FWS regional ANS program coordinator in meeting Service goals to monitor for the presence of ANS species, to prevent new ANS introductions, and to minimize ANS range expansion.

    ANS species of concern in the mid-Columbia area include New Zealand mudsnail, zebra mussels, Didymosphenia geminata (didymo), and whirling disease.

    MCFWCO conducts annual surveys at the Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop hatcheries to look for the presence of New Zealand mudsnails in their source/receiving waters. To date, none have been found in this area. Zebra mussels and whirling disease have also not been found in local waters.

    Didymosphenia geminate (didymo), otherwise known as "Rock Snot," is a diatom invader that has negatively impacted some popular fishing and recreational rivers and threatens cold-water streams in North America. It has been found throughout the U.S., including the Methow and Chewuch Rivers in this area of Washington.

    Anglers are cautioned to help prevent the spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS).

    Learn more...
Last Updated: October 9, 2014
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