The salmon ladder at Nimbus Hatchery in Rancho Cordova will open Wednesday, Nov. 2, signaling the start of the spawning season on the American River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers will open the ladder gates at 10:45 a.m. Hatchery employees may take more than a half-million eggs during the first week of operation alone in an effort to ensure the successful spawning of the returning fall run Chinook salmon.
There are eight state-run salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. Over the next two months, the three major state-run hatcheries in the Central Valley – the Nimbus Hatchery in Sacramento County, the Feather River Hatchery in Butte County and the Mokelumne River Hatchery in San Joaquin County – will take approximately 24 million eggs in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.
Each hatchery has a viewing area where visitors can watch the spawning process. The visitors’ center at Nimbus Hatchery also 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 www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.
Together, state and federally operated hatcheries raise 40 million juvenile salmon for release into California waters each year. Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, one-quarter of the stock are marked and implanted with coded wire tags prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart survival, catch and return rates. These massive spawning and tracking efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.