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Hatchery Operations through the Year

Quinault National Fish Hatchery sign

Quilcene NFH staff are busy year round propagating hatchery coho salmon.

  • August to November

    Preparing eggs for fertilization

    Returning adult coho salmon are collected and sorted for spawning (reproduction). These salmon are 3 years old and some 2 years old (males called jacks). There are typically more adult coho salmon returning to Quilcene NFH than are needed for its egg spawning commitments. These extra fish are surplussed to five tribes for subsistence (helping meet the governments tribal trust responsibilities).

  • October to March

    Chinook salmon sac fry

    Spawning occurs in October/Novemer and eggs are incubated in egg troughs until developing an eye. This eyed egg can be seen looking through its clear egg shell. Eyed eggs are then moved into vertical incubators to hatch (alevin or sac fry stage) and at stage of "button up" (yolk sac completely absorbed) fish are moved into raceways and the rearing cycle begins. Coho salmon spend 1 1/2 years in fresh water and 1 1/2 years in salt water before returning as an adult. A separate fish program raises 450,000 eyed coho salmon eggs are transferred to George Adams State Fish Hatchery for a Port Gamble S'Klallam tribal net pen program. Eggs are incubated, hatched and raised before being transported to the net pens..

    A portion of the developing eggs are transfered to the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe for their net pen program (about 450,000 eggs anually).

  • March - April


    Fish being raised start a transformation in which they are preparing to migrate into the ocean (smolt phase). The fish appearance changes, their bodies are more streamlined, fins clear, and turns silvery. They are now ready to migrate to the estuaries/ocean with their bodies able to make the transition from fresh to salt water.

    Fish are released mid April (mimicking migration of wild coho) at night and coinciding with a high tide (this allows better survival for the migrating smolt salmon.

  • May - August


    In May fish are marked with adipose fin clip and a portion have coded wire tags implanted in their noses. These fish are then moved into concrete raceways to continue their rearing until 1.5 years in freshwater.

    Fish being raised are checked monthly by fish heatlh biologists and if hatchery staff notice elevated mortality or odd behavior, they can call the biologist to come examine them.survival for the migrating smolt salmon.

  • Year Round Activities

    Feeding fish

    Maintenance: The hatchery is over 100 years old and routine maintenance is performed as well as infrastructure repairs. The hatchery's buildings, fish rearing structures/equipment, trucks, forklift all are maintained to provide safe working environment and equipment for it's employees and volunteers.

    Raising Fish: There are fish at the hatchery every month of the year. The level of care is dependent on the age and health of the fish.

    Fish Health: Fish raised at the hatchery are routinely examined monthly by Fish Health Biologists. Tissue samples are also taken during the spawning operation to check to presence of diseases. If there is a condition that requires treatment of the fish a Doctor of Veterinary medicine can prescribe a medication. However we strive to provide the fish we daily watch for any indications of disease and raise our fish in a environment to promote their health (shade covers, monitor density, routine cleaning and feeding).

Last Updated: October 9, 2014
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