Coleman National Fish Hatchery Staff Complete Trucking of 1.4 Million Chinook Salmon Smolts

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The Coleman National Fish Hatchery staff announced today they have completed the trucking of 1.4 million of its Chinook salmon smolts from the hatchery to San Pablo Bay. The trucking was completed in phases between May 19, and June 5, 2008. The Chinook smolts, 3 inches in length, have been raised at Coleman NFH in Anderson, Calif., as part of the hatchery?s role in mitigating for the Shasta and Keswick dams on the upper Sacramento River.

This was the first time in more than a decade that Coleman NFH employees trucked smolts from the hatchery 300+ miles to San Pablo Bay.

“Trucking was challenging at times, but the results will help us better understand how the release location influences the number of salmon available to the ocean fisheries and returning to the Sacramento River and Coleman National Fish Hatchery,” said Coleman National Fish Hatchery Manager Scott Hamelberg. &”Although it will likely take several years to gather all the data, we expect the information will help us improve salmon management in the Central Valley.”

After a difficult and disappointing first day when one load of fish died due to a failed circulation pump, all of the remaining fish made a successful trip to San Pablo Bay. The smolts trucked to San Pablo Bay were placed in net pens operated by the Fishery Foundation of California for acclimatization and then released in to the bay. A portion of the smolts have coded-wire tags to identify them as part of this experiment. As these smolts are harvested or return as adults, fisheries biologists will be able to determine the rate of return of these fish.

Coleman National Fish Hatchery was constructed in 1942 as part of the mitigation measures to help preserve significant runs of Chinook salmon threatened by the loss of natural spawning areas resulting from the construction of Shasta and Keswick dams on the upper Sacramento River. One of the primary goals of the hatchery is to assure that salmon return to the upper Sacramento River. Fall Chinook salmon smolts produced at the Coleman NFH are typically released on-site so that they complete the imprinting cycle during their outmigration to the ocean. This release strategy increases the likelihood that these fish will return to the upper Sacramento River as adults to contribute to the upper Sacramento in-river fishery, and return to the hatchery in sufficient numbers to perpetuate the runs and the programs. Another important goal of the hatchery is to contribute to the ocean sport and commercial fishery. Coleman NFH contributes up to 100,000 Chinook annually to the ocean fisheries as well as thousands of fish for the fisheries in the Sacramento River.

Situated on Battle Creek, a small, cold water tributary of the Sacramento River, the hatchery produces 12 million fall Chinook salmon, 1 million late-fall Chinook salmon, and 600,000 steelhead trout annually. Coleman NFH also has a coded wire tagging program in which young fish are taken from the raceways to the tagging trailer in an aerated tank. After sedation, fish are adipose fin clipped to provide an external mark that identifies coded-wire tagged fish. After the fin clip, fish are placed in a nose cone and a small wire tag is injected into the cartilaginous portion of the 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 gives the biologist information about which hatchery the fish came from, the year the fish was hatched, tagged, released, and other pertinent information such as parental lineage.

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