The Winthrop NFH steelhead program is an integrated recovery hatchery program. This means it aims to boost abundance of natural spawning by using wild adults and allowing most of their offspring to spawn in the wild. Both the hatchery and wild fish are considered to be part of the same Upper Columbia population. Both are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Program video

The program has been in almost constant evolution since it began over 12 years ago. Program changes primarily aim at reducing the program's ecological "footprint" on ESA-listed species, by selecting wild fish adapted to the natural environment, not those that have evolved to thrive in the hatchery environment. Other ongoing strategies and research aim to reduce the number of non-migrant juvenile steelhead being released into the environment, as well as cooperative stock management with the Wells Fish Hatchery (Douglas PUD) to better manage gene flow in the river.

We experimented with a new strategy in 2020 to minimize the effects of removing wild broodstock broodstock
The reproductively mature adults in a population that breed (or spawn) and produce more individuals (offspring or progeny).

Learn more about broodstock
from the run by seeking to "borrow" fish temporarily for the hatchery program. Part of this goal has already been addressed. Since 2012, US Fish & Wildlife Service has teamed up with the Yakama Nation to live-spawn all female steelhead. Eggs are removed from the females, which are then transferred to the Yakama's Kelt Recovery facility on the Winthrop NFH campus.

Unlike most other Pacific salmon, steelhead do not necessarily die after spawning. Some females survive to spawn a second, or even third time. Due to the difficulty of navigating a highly modified Columbia River environment, their success rate is very low, likely under 5%. The Yakama's program reconditions these "kelt" females and releases them to spawn again, drastically increasing their success rate.

2020 marks the first year that zero steelhead were euthanized for spawning at Winthrop NFH, which is very atypical of a hatchery program! Like the females, all male steelhead were released to the river after being live-spawned. This will, we hope, allow them to contribute wild genetics to the spawning population. The Mid-Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office's Hatchery Evaluation program PIT-tagged all of these fish and hopes to document whether this is an effective strategy.

Contact Information

A man in rainjacket and ballcap stands in a concrete tank, holding up in both hands a gorgeous steelhead in bright spawning colors.
Hatchery Manager (Retired)
National Fish Hatchery System,
Fish and Aquatic Conservation



Juvenile Northern Pike in aquarium at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery, South Dakota
The Fish and Aquatic Conservation program leads aquatic conservation efforts for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We are committed to tackling the nation’s highest priority aquatic conservation and recreational challenges to conserve, restore, and enhance fisheries for future generations.
150 Years. National Fish Hatchery System.” in front of glossy orange eggs against a white background.
The National Fish Hatchery System works to support healthy, self-sustaining populations of fish and other aquatic species across the country. Every year we raise and stock over 100 million fish to support the recovery and restoration of imperiled species, recreational fishing, and Tribal...