The spawning of fall-run chinook salmon concluded at the Feather River Fish Hatchery in early November with millions of fish eggs now fertilized and incubated.
For the second year in a row, the hatchery increased the amount of fall-run chinook salmon eggs collected to offset effects of California’s current drought now going on its third year.
This year, the hatchery collected about 9.5 million fall-run salmon eggs, according to the Department of Water Resources. The average number of fall-run chinook salmon eggs collected at the hatchery is 7.2 million.
Raquel Borrayo, spokeswoman for the Department of Water Resources, said DWR and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife agreed to increase the amount of fall-run chinook salmon grown at the hatchery “to enhance the salmon fishery during this drought period as the overall Central Valley salmon numbers have been lower due to the drought.”
Borrayo said a variety of factors such as water availability, food sources, natural predation, temperature, and recreational and commercial fishing impact the chinook salmon’s ability to migrate back to the hatchery during their two-to-five year migration period.
The chinook salmon eggs collected this fall will grow to a fingerling size — about three inches long or about the size of a finger — before they are planted downstream in the Feather River in the spring.
DWR reported that the hatchery collected 2.4 million spring-run chinook salmon eggs and 126,000 inland Lake Oroville chinook salmon eggs this year.
During non-drought years, Borroayo said DWR will plant 6 million fingerling fall-run chinook salmon.
In continuing with its strategy against drought-related effects on Central Valley salmon populations, the hatchery will plant 7.75 million fingerling fall-run chinook salmon in spring 2023.
The next phase of spring-run chinook salmon spawning will likely begin mid-September 2023, Borrayo said, and the hatchery will begin steelhead trout spawning the last week of December through mid-February.