Winter at the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC Hatcheries

In this series of blog posts, we will take you behind the scenes at each Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC hatchery through the seasons, beginning with winter.

Winter weather brings many challenges around the province. Hatchery staff need to deal with everything from ice storms, to reaching outdoor ponds in 60 centimetres of snow, to power outages. Auxiliary staff have all completed their terms, and preparation for the busy spring months is well underway. Every hatchery is spending much of the winter doing maintenance on the liberation vehicles, cleaning ponds, and planning for springtime. Here are a few more details about what is going on at each Society hatchery.

Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery

The big focus for the winter is the anadromous cutthroat and steelhead brood stock-capture programs. Most of these fish are collected by volunteer anglers, and will be held at the hatchery until they are ready to spawn. Their offspring will be released in the spring of 2019. All the spring 2018 fingerling and yearling rainbow trout are ponded, and preparing for release in a few months. Spring catchable-sized rainbow trout are being reared at the Chehalis River Hatchery.

Vancouver Island Trout Hatchery

Fraser Valley rainbow trout brood stock are being held at the Vancouver Island Trout Hatchery. Over the last couple of months, 600,000 eggs have been collected. They will then be shipped to the other Society hatcheries where they will be reared, and primarily released as catchable-sized fish into urban lakes. Anadromous brood stock-capture for Oyster River cutthroat is another focus during the winter on the Island. Staff have caught 10 pairs of fish, which will be held at the hatchery until they are ready to spawn. The progeny will be released as smolts in April of 2019. 

Kootenay Trout Hatchery

This hatchery is busy PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tagging and marking all the sturgeon that will be released into the Columbia River this spring. Ponding and first feeding of Fraser Valley rainbow trout, brook char, and kokanee happen over the winter. Fin clips for the 70,000 Blackwater River brood fish for Premier Lake take a crew one or two weeks to complete.

Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre

Hatched in the spring of 2017, 4800 sturgeon have reached their target weight for release in the spring of 2018. These fish are being held in cold water in the hatchery, waiting for temperatures to rise and for the ice to melt from the river. There are also 36 sturgeon, hatched from wild eggs in the spring of 2016, to be released as two-year-olds. They currently range in size from 200 to 900 grams. Ranging in weight from 20 to 100 grams, there are 71 sturgeon from the wild-egg collection in the spring of 2017. Another 45 sturgeon are being held in warmer water to boost their growth over the winter months. Currently being held in very cold water to simulate the conditions of the Nechako River, six females and one male sturgeon will be spawned in the spring of 2018. This water is so cold that there is a layer of ice built up on the surface of the tank.

Summerland Trout Hatchery

Summerland currently has 600,000 fish on site, ranging in age from three months (fall-spawned brook char) to 2.5 years old (rainbow trout brood stock). We are working on projects, and getting prepared for our fast-approaching spring release program that starts in April. Our earthen ponds on Skaha Lake currently hold 40,000 Fraser Valley rainbow trout which are also being grown for the spring release.

Clearwater Trout Hatchery

Clearwater staff are busy moving all the kokanee that were collected in the fall into the jumbo rearing-area troughs, and getting them on first feeding. These kokanee will be grown until May, when they will be released into lakes all over the province. The Clearwater Hatchery is responsible for releasing upwards of 1.2 million kokanee fry annually. Staff are also busy getting 1.3 million rainbow trout to a yearling size to be released this spring from April to June.

For more information on who we are and what we do, please visit our website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Author: Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC Staff
Photo Credit: Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC Staff