The Eggs to Release Story

Salmonid Fish Culture

Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) is responsible for stocking eight million fish in over 800 lakes and streams throughout the province, operating five hatcheries and up to ten field stations in British Columbia. Fifty-three per cent of angling licence revenue is directed towards the support of these unique stocking programs, which predominantly utilizes wild stocks of kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. We use a captive population of brook char to provide opportunities for this species. 

The FFSBC’s fish stocking program is unique in North America because we use wild broodstocks to provide eggs for hatcheries. To achieve this goal, the FFSBC utilises egg collection stations at numerous British Columbia lakes for 2 to 4 weeks every Spring and Fall. Some stations have 'traps' set at an outlet creek to capture the fish as they head out to spawn in these creeks. The captured broodstock remain in these holding traps until their eggs are collected. Other egg stations collect their broodstock in a net trap suspended in the water column of the lake. The FFSBC and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources are conservative in our use of wild stocks to ensure that we minimise any impact and promote their sustainable use.

Fish culturists collect the appropriate number of eggs required to grow all the fish requested by the regional fisheries managers. Along with eggs, information is also collected from the broodstock so the culturists can accurately assess the average size, age and strain of the spawners.

Egg Collection for steelhead and sea-run cutthroat

Broodstock is collected for the anadromous programs (steelhead and sea-going cutthroat) using angling or fish traps at river mouths. Most anadromous programs are run in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans hatchery staff. To avoid any fish health problems in the hatchery, these adults are kept at a separate site away from the main hatchery. Wild broodstock will naturally carry parasites or bacteria so measures are taken to prevent health issues. Samples are also taken for disease screening. After the eggs are collected, the fish are returned to their home stream. In a few months, their progeny will also be released into these same systems.

Depending on the facility or life stage of the fish, steelhead and cutthroat are reared in a variety of containers before release. Generally the eggs are incubated in heath trays, incubation jars, or upwellers until they are developed enough to be "ponded". Ponding describes placing fish at the alevin-fry stage into a trough or larger pond with flow through water systems. 

Approximately two days after ponding, the fish will have used up their nutritional yolk sac and will be swimming up to the surface looking for food. This life stage sees the fastest rate of growth and fish culturists are continually modifying their growing densities and feed sizes. 

Fish are also reared to larger sizes in large circular tanks, raceways and ponds. Each of these different rearing containers will have different modes for feeding fish and loading into the trucks. To learn more please visit the Trout's Life page by clicking here.

White Sturgeon Fish Culture

The culture of white sturgeon is considerably more complex than for salmonid culture programs. The FFSBC is actively developing expertise in a number of sturgeon culture areas including broodstock capture and reconditioning, gamete collection, and juvenile rearing and marking.

Broodstock capture and reconditioning

Currently all eggs and sperm obtained for recovery programs in BC are derived from wild adults. This requires the capture of adults annually and internal inspection of gametes to determine maturity. Adults are captured via angling or set lines in the river and brought on board for inspection. Immature fish are released immediately, while likely candidates for the culture program are brought to the hatchery facility where they are held for several weeks until they are fully mature.

Gamete collection

Adults must be fully mature before any spawning can be conducted in the hatchery facility. To check the maturation progress on females a small incision is made and a few eggs are removed and examined periodically; the incision is then sutured up. Since adults may not necessarily mature in synchrony, the application of hormones is used to help induce final maturation and to help synchronize spawning events where possible. The spawning process involves hand expression of eggs from females and sperm in males is extracted by way of a syringe. The fish are then reconditioned in the facility prior to release back to the river.

Juvenile rearing and marking

White sturgeon eggs are incubated in tall cylindrical containers keeping families separate until larvae hatch. At this time each family is moved to a separate tank where it is raised until it can be tagged individually. All sturgeon rearing facilities are maintained in quarantined areas, separate from the other hatchery facilities. Juvenile sturgeon are raised until they are one year of age and then released. Pilot studies are being conducted to determine age of release with the highest post-release survival rates. Prior to release, all juveniles are scute-marked and pit-tagged so that they can be individually identified if they are recaptured. Tagging is extremely useful for studies investigating survival, movement, growth, and age.

For information on the White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative please click here.