Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

I have always admired the epic journey of the Pacific salmon ever since I read about it as a teenager. I have eaten plenty of salmon and I have learned about salmon through out the years from both Seattleites and transplants, which gave me a deeper appreciation for them. Today Eric and I took a field trip to learn more about salmon spawing in the autumn at a salmon hatchery in Issaquah; known as Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, also know as FISH.

A lot of good information was provided in the tour. This is what we learned from the Docent, the educator, who provided the tour.

Tour hours for F.I.S.H Check their website for changes.

Tour hours for F.I.S.H Check their website for changes.

Main Points of the tour 

The hatchery started in the 1930s to restore salmon to the river.  At the time, the hatchery didnt’ have any fish because it was decimated by logging, mining, and coal.

They got the salmon from another river.

In the 1970s, they were going to close the hatchery, because it was expensive to run it. However, the people of Issaquah volunteered to run it for free, offering themselves as volunteers to keep it open.

Now, volunteers do most of the work.  If you want to volunteer, they are taking volunteers, now.

On our day of the vist, the water was muddy. Muddy water filled with silt this year, which is very bad for salmon.  The silt in the river covers the salmon eggs on the bottom of the river and suffocates the eggs. Its possible that few eggs if any hatch will this year due to the silt just past flowing down the creek.

Issaquah Creek

Issaquah Creek

The reason for the silt was because of recent logging and development.  The water no longer gets a chance to sink into the ground and instead flushes dirt into the river. There isn’t enough trees, grasses, bush or other vegetation on the surface of the ground to slow down the water to sink into the ground before entering the stream. Instead, it rushes over the surface and carries with dirt into the creek.

And because of the recent rain that stirred up more silt.

It is hard for salmon to swim through the fish ladder when the water is muddy.  The water irritates their eyes because they don’t have eyelids to protect them against the dirty water

A female salmon lays thousands of eggs.  Most eggs die or predators eat them.  Ducks, king fisher, raccoons herons (that must have been why we saw a heron hanging out on the roof, it smelled the salmon), and other fish are all considered predators.

Of those eggs that reach maturity and swims to the ocean, only a a few dozen make it back due to barriers and predators.

They let some of the salmon go upstream not all of them because the holding capacity of the river isn’t that great for all the salmon coming back.

salmon trying to jump the weir

salmon trying to jump the weir

The hatchery fertilizes the salmon themselves.

Before salmon are released from the hatchery, their adipose fin is removed.  This helps identify them as hatchery-raised fish.  When fisherman catches salmon, they are supposed to release any salmon that still have their adipose fin.  This helps protect the wild salmon population.  Removing the adipose fin does not affect the salmon’s ability to swim and is an easy way for them to mark the salmon as hatchery-raised.

They chop off all the tails of the dead salmon that they used to fertilize, after they get the eggs, and throw the dead salmon without tails in the river.  This is so that they can refertilize the river the dead salmon bodies.  It is also so that when the biologist counting the dead salmon in the river don’t count the dead salmon bodies in the hatchery.

There were questions about fish farms and wild salmon from the audience.

There was not much talk about fish farms other than they are not helpful for the wild salmon.

One of the audience members brought up the the recent release of Atlantic salmon around the Pacific Northwest.

The conversation continued that the Atlantic salmon is bad for the Pacific salmon gene pool.  Atlantic Salmon should not be in the Pacific Northwest.  Having Atlantic salmon fish farms threatens, the native wild salmon.  If they mate, they produce, sterile off springs.

The government says that you are free to catch as many Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

The wild Pacific salmon is at a threatening low number which raised another question

What can a regular consumer do to help protect salmon?

One of the ladies in the group said, call you congressperson to fight for environmental protection.

Tid bits: you can schedule a tour during the week.  You are free to walk in during the weekends of the salmon spawning season, which is in autumn.  Check their website for updated times.

Tour hours for F.I.S.H

Tour hours for F.I.S.H

FISH accepts donation. There is a sign that says, “Feed Finley.”

Donation sign

Donation sign

Parking: we parked on the street.