Feather River Fish Hatchery Steps in to Raise Inland Chinook Salmon Eggs Amid Glass Fire

In addition to destroying and threatening thousands of homes and businesses, the devastating Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties jeopardized the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Inland Chinook Salmon Program – until the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville came to the rescue. The Feather River Fish Hatchery is owned and maintained by the California Department of Water Resources – and operated by CDFW.
 
Each year, CDFW raises approximately 800,000 Chinook salmon smolts and fingerlings for planting and recreational fishing in large foothill and valley reservoirs from Fresno County to Trinity County. These landlocked salmon often grow quite large and fill an ecological and recreational angling niche in these deep-water impoundments not typically occupied by other fish species.
 
The state record inland Chinook salmon came from Trinity Lake in 2013 weighing 20 pounds, 15 ounces. Anglers regularly catch inland Chinook salmon weighing 7 to 8 pounds at Lake Oroville and 5 to 6 pounds at Folsom Lake.
 
The inland Chinook salmon originate with eggs collected and spawned at the Feather River Fish Hatchery each fall from salmon returning to the Feather River. The eggs and fish are excess to the hatchery’s annual production goals. About 1.4 million Chinook salmon eggs were collected from the Feather River Fish Hatchery in early October and designated for the Inland Chinook Salmon Program.
 
Ordinarily, most of these eggs are taken to CDFW’s Silverado Fisheries Base in Napa County for incubation, where they remain until the baby salmon are big enough for stocking. The Silverado Fisheries Base suffered power outages and came under threat of evacuation as a result of the Glass Fire.
 
In response to the emergency and with assistance from CDFW’s Inland Chinook Salmon Program staff, temporary adjustments were made at the Feather River Fish Hatchery to keep the eggs, incubate them and grow out the salmon until the Silverado Fisheries Base is once again able to accommodate the fish, likely in November.
 
CDFW staff set up additional fish-rearing incubators in their Inland Chinook Salmon Building. That building typically only has space to hold 300,000 eggs and baby salmon destined for Lake Oroville. Thanks to the extra effort, the Feather River Hatchery is now holding 1.4 million eggs that represent the entire annual production of the state’s Inland Chinook Salmon Program.
 
“Understanding the inherent risk of losing an entire year’s production, CDFW staff will play a crucial role in ensuring future inland Chinook fisheries in Folsom, Oroville and eight other lakes and reservoirs,” said Kyle Murphy, a senior environmental scientist with CDFW’s Fisheries Branch. “This interagency teamwork will have long-reaching effects for thousands of anglers in central and northern California.”
 
Adding to the stress, the Feather River Fish Hatchery itself was ordered to evacuate for a day Oct. 15 due to a nearby fire in Oroville. Both the Oroville fire and the Glass Fire have been contained and no longer pose threats to either facility.
 
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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 212-3164
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714
 
  • Feather River Hatchery exterior
  • Egg trays at Feather River Hatchery
  • Tanks at Feather River Hatchery

Feather River Hatchery Closed Until Further Notice

Due to recent flooding from the Feather River, the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville will remain closed to the public until further notice.

The hatchery’s infrastructure and public viewing areas were damaged by high flood waters, silt and debris, making it unsafe for the public to be on the grounds or access the river via hatchery property.

“Our staff is focused on keeping the hatchery salmon and steelhead alive, and facility cleanup efforts won’t be completed for some time,” said Anna Kastner, Feather River Hatchery Manager. “We appreciate the public’s patience and support of our efforts to preserve these critical stocks under unusual and challenging circumstances. We’ll be very happy when all operations are back to normal.”

On Feb. 9 and 10, more than 60 people from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and other agencies successfully transferred more than five million Chinook salmon to an annex hatchery nine miles away. Fisheries staff also constructed an emergency filtration system for the remaining salmon and steelhead at the Oroville facility.

To date, losses at the hatchery have been minimal.

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Media Contacts:
Anna Kastner, CDFW Feather River Fish Hatchery, (530) 538-2222

Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958