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Salmon River Hatchery

Salmon River Hatchery
article by:
Fran Verdoliva - New York State Conservationist
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1

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Last modified:January 25, 2017

Summary:

Salmon River Hatchery need quality water to spawn.

Salmon River Hatchery Upstate New York

Each autumn, a large number of anglers make a pilgrimage to the Salmon River in upstate New York to try their hand at catching a giant Pacific salmon. The river is teeming with spawning salmon Chinooks and cohos which have returned to the water where they first hatched. Pulled by an hidden natal force, the fish are drawn into the mouth of the Salmon River from Lake Ontario, and head upstream where they conflict running rapids, fight for space, dodge eagles and anglers, and then mate, lay eggs and die, returning their bodies to the river forever.

A number of these fish were raised in the Salmon River Hatchery, situated only several miles upstream. The hatchery functions an essential function in New York’s fisheries management plan. In 1968, New York State embarked upon a mission to restore and improve Great Lakes fisheries. Extirpation of native Atlantic salmon from Lake Ontario and lake trout from both Lakes Ontario and Erie led to an overabundance of alewives, a nonnative species. Without predators, the alewives quickly procreated. So DEC biologists stocked Pacific salmon, steelhead and brown trout to command alewife numbers and to supply excellent fishing opportunities.

Initially these salmonid species needed to be raised in a number of the 11 present hatcheries scattered around New York. But a number of these facilities weren’t designed for raising Pacific salmon or steelhead, as well as the fish needed to be carried many miles before reaching their destination. Enter the Salmon River Hatchery.
Constructed in 1980, Salmon River became the last and greatest hatchery of the state managed system of 12 fish hatcheries. Designed especially to raise Pacific salmon, steelhead and brown trout, the Salmon River Hatchery became the crown jewel of the system: a modern facility capable to generate all the introduced salmonids needed to create what has eventually become a world class multi million dollar sport fishery in Lakes Ontario and Erie.

Spawning over 1.8 million Chinook salmon

Annually the Salmon River Hatchery raises as many as 1.8 million Chinook salmon, 250,000 coho salmon, 900,000 steelhead and 400,000 brown trout. Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead are all developed and raised from eggs taken from wild broodstock that live to maturity in Lake Ontario and go back to the hatchery to spawn.

Raising fish in the Salmon River Hatchery is a major effort, using a staff of eight when working at full capability. Staff are tasked with feeding, housing and caring for the fish, stocking them in over 100 public waters in eleven counties around the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie coastlines, and keeping the facility and property.

Eggs are gathered during the spawning run and put in unique incubator trays that are provided with a continuous flow of plain water. When the eggs hatch, the emergent fry are transferred to aluminum indoor beginning tanks where they can be fed a dry diet daily. The food comes in various sizes and is corrected as needed to ensure optimum growth and progression. These 56 raising tanks have to be cleaned every day to remove accumulated waste. As the fish increase in size as well as added space is necessary, the fish are transferred to 24 big outside concrete raceways and four new outside ring-shaped tanks. Hatchery staff track the fish weekly to evaluate growth rates, and correct feeding speeds appropriately to keep optimum generation. General state and disease tracking happens daily, making sure the fish grow properly and remain healthy before being stocked.

When prepared, the fish are stocked into Great Lakes tributaries right from hatchery trucks, or offshore from a barge. Carrying the fish offshore improves the survival of recently stocked fish from predation by birds and other fish. Staff also work cooperatively with angler groups to end raising fish at designated sites round the lakes. These fish are kept in pens for about two to three weeks ahead of stocking to enhance imprinting of the fish to these chosen sites, and to raise protection from predators and allow for added growth before launch.

 What Quality Is Vital for Spawning Salmon

Top quality water is an essential element of raising quality fish. A big rearing facility like the Salmon River Hatchery uses a mean of 10,000 gallons of water per minute. Water comes from deep drilled wells, shallow water infiltration wells, and from Salmon River water that’s piped in from the Lower Salmon River Reservoir. The optimum temperature for raising salmon and trout is low to mid 50s degrees F, and water temperatures from the above mentioned sources can vary from 34 degrees F to 74 degrees F, determined by seasonal variation. As such, hatchery staff track the water temperature and make use of the above mentioned sources alone or in combination.

A planned recirculation system will allow for more efficient utilization of the present deep water wells (the wellspring of the coldest and finest quality water), thus supplying more consistently favorable temperatures. The Salmon River Hatchery hosts tens of thousands of visitors annually. Anglers, civil groups, school class field trips, bus tour groups and families come to see from local, regional, national and international destinations. Open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. seven days a week from April through November, the facility provides visitors an opportunity to experience the hatchery through a self-guided tour.

That is a viewing deck overlooking the confluence of a fish ladder and Beaverdam Brook that enables visitors to view the migrating salmon and trout as they enter the ladder, spawning naturally in the brook. A fresh aquarium in the visitor center will show fish species that inhabit the Salmon River and Lake Ontario. Moreover, a brand new underwater video system with a sizable outside TV display is being installed in the hatchery’s fish ladder to give visitors a better view of salmon as they migrate through the ladder.

During the yearly autumn Pacific salmon run, beginning in September, guided interpretive tours are available, with seasonal environmental teachers on hand to help. Visitors can monitor the various interpretive displays as well as videos in the foyer, and there’s a 75 seat auditorium where guests can view videos revealing hatchery procedures: steelhead egg take in the springtime; the Pacific salmon run and egg take in the autumn. Other videos include: fishing chances in the Salmon River, environmental jobs in Lake Ontario as well as the Salmon River, and operations at the Adirondack Hatchery, which specializes in raising landlocked Atlantic salmon. Visitors who would like to see the autumn Pacific salmon egg take directly should intend to go to the hatchery the two weeks after Columbus Day. Egg collection is done between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on weekdays.

On the fourth Saturday in September each year, the hatchery hosts an open house in celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day. Many of NYS’s associate agencies, conservation groups, angling organizations and DEC staff from various other sections display and current advice to the people in the occasion. Hatchery staff give tours of the facility, for example, beginning tank room, spawn house, outside raising tanks, fish ladder and hatchery stocking trucks.

This provides the public a more comprehensive comprehension of the means by which the facility operates, a close up view of both juvenile fish being raised and mature fish returning at this time of the year, and how fish culture leads to the restoration of fisheries in Lake Ontario, the Salmon River and Lake Erie. The open house is geared toward families and offers considerable chance for parents and youngsters to engage in and learn about open-air recreational activities for example tying flies, learning to throw a fishing rod, boating safety, kayaking, and custom canoe building. Advice is, in addition, accessible on stream ecology and other outdoor activities accessible the region like shooting sports, snowmobiling, cross country skiing and ATV use. As many as 3,000 visitors attend this one day event each year.

Salmon River Hatchery
Salmon River Hatchery

Even after 35 years, the Salmon River Hatchery continues to execute the aims and aims of helping re-establish Great Lakes fisheries while improving the recreational fishing opportunities related to them. As a young kid in the late 1950s and 1960s, I could just dream of getting trophy sized salmon or trout without going great distances and at great price. One needed to go to the Pacific Northwest or Alaska to get Pacific salmon or steelhead, the Maritime Provinces of Canada for Atlantic salmon, or alternative exotic places like Argentina or New Zealand for trophy brown trout. At that time, these wishes were executed merely vicariously by watching television shows like “The American Sportsman.”

Now, my fellow anglers and I can get these fish right here in our own backyards. For the price of a fishing license, fishing tackle, along with a bit of traveling, you can capture these glorious prize fish. Anglers now travel from all around the globe, including the areas I once only dreamed of, to fish New York’s Great Lakes. This supplies millions of dollars of financial activity to local companies.

The Salmon River Hatchery is the catalyst which has created a world class sport fishery through stocking, providing the chance for returning carried fish to reproduce naturally, and improving the fishery in top quality river systems which include the Salmon River.

In summary, the Salmon River Hatchery supplies the chance for an angler’s dreams to eventually become reality.
In the event that You Go:

The Salmon River Fish Hatchery is situated on County Route 22, one mile northeast of the Village of Altmar, Oswego County. The Hatchery is open to the people from April 1st (weather permitting) until November 30th, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. That is a picnic pavilion accessible for public use.

In the event youwant to find the procedure for egg taking, go to the hatchery in both week interval following Columbus Day, between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

To find out more regarding the hatchery, or to organize tours for organized groups, contact the hatchery at 315 298 5051.

NY Works

Governor Cuomo has made $8 million in New York Works funds available for essential developments to DEC’S 12 fish hatcheries. Jobs include replacing concrete raceways, water filters and purification systems, installing new boilers, painting hatchery buildings, and repaving. DEC also purchased 16 new trucks for the active stocking season to replace aging vehicles. These endeavors will help ensure that we can lift enough fish to fulfill conservation and recreational goals.

Salmon River Hatchery need quality water to spawn.