Court Action Allows Mad River Hatchery to Start Steelhead Spawning Operations

Media Contacts:
Philip Bairrington, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist (707) 825-4859
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) personnel at Mad River Hatchery began allowing wild origin steelhead and hatchery origin steelhead to enter the hatchery Feb. 4, to start spawning operations. The hatchery action is based on an amended court-ordered stay, signed by Judge M.M. Chesney, allowing hatchery operations to proceed with conditions agreed to by CDFW and the plaintiff Environmental Protection Information Center.

The court action allows Mad River Hatchery to collect, trap and spawn wild origin steelhead for brood stock for one year. Two of the main conditions of the action were the belief by National Marine Fisheries Service that progress was made on the development of a Hatchery Genetic Management Plan and agreement on the collection of natural origin steelhead trout in the coming year.

“Collection operations went very smoothly today,” said Shad Overton, Mad River Hatchery Manager. “It is critical we include both wild and hatchery origin fish to ensure the best genetic diversity of eggs possible for future releases. Our goal is to release 150,000 yearlings next year.”

Trapping, collection and egg take were delayed due to litigation. Spawning usually starts in January and continues through March. This time window allows the hatchery to spawn returning fish throughout the run. This year’s later start is not expected to affect overall spawning operations.

Nimbus Hatchery Fish Ladder to Open Nov. 4

The salmon ladder at Nimbus Hatchery in Rancho Cordova will open Nov. 4, signaling the start of the spawning season on the American River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers will open the gates in the ladder at 10:45 a.m. and will take more than a half-million eggs during the first week alone in an effort to ensure the successful spawning of the returning fall-run Chinook salmon.

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The three major state-run hatcheries in the Central Valley – the Nimbus Hatchery in Sacramento County, and hatcheries on the Feather River in Butte County and the Mokelumne River in San Joaquin County – will take approximately 24 million eggs over the next two months in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

Each hatchery has a viewing area where visitors can watch the spawning process. At the Nimbus and Feather River hatcheries, thousands of schoolchildren tour the facilities each year. The visitors’ center at Nimbus Hatchery includes a playground with replicas of giant salmon that are enjoyed by young and old alike. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at each hatchery, please visit the CDFW website at

Around the state, there are eight state-run salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. Those hatcheries, along with federally run hatcheries, will be responsible for the release of 40 million juvenile salmon into California waters. These massive spawning efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.

Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, one-quarter of the stock will be marked and implanted with a coded wire tag prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart their survival, catch and return rates.

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Mark Clifford, CDFW Hatchery Coordinator, (530) 918-9450


CDFW Central Valley Hatcheries Release 900,000 Steelhead Smolts in February

Media Contacts:
Bill Cox, Program Manager Fish Production and Distribution, (916) 358-2827
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) released 900,000 steelhead smolts from its Central Valley hatcheries in February.

The year-old, 6- to 8-inch steelhead will flow down the Sacramento River into San Francisco Bay, then to the Pacific Ocean to feed and grow. In one to three years, the adults will return to the river waters in which they were raised.

The steelhead came from three hatcheries:

-The Feather River Hatchery released more than 400,000 steelhead smolts into the Feather River near Marysville;

-The Nimbus Hatchery released more than 315,500 steelhead smolts into the American River near the Howe Avenue Bridge in Sacramento;

-The Mokelumne River Hatchery released 185,000 steelhead smolts into the Mokelume River at New Hope Landing.

Dams on the Feather, American and Mokelumne Rivers prevent steelhead and salmon from reaching most of their historic spawning areas. CDFW operates hatcheries on each of these rivers to mitigate for the loss of spawning habitat and maintain salmon and steelhead populations.


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