Sidebar: The Cycle of a Salmon’s Life

April 28, 2015

Cliff helped to move small fish from one of these tanks to a larger tank because they needed more room to grow. m1  50,000 to 60,000 frys (the name for small salmon) are raised in the tanks like these above.

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A net full of frys are dumped into a large tank on the back of a pickup so that they can be transported.

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The fish are then moved to their new home, pictured below and they will stay in their new pool until they are 6” – 7” long.  They will then be moved to a nearby river and begin their trip to the ocean.

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When a salmon egg hatches, the young is called an alevin and still depends on the yolk sac for nutrition. After 5 or 10 weeks (depends on water temperature), the salmon is called a fry and begins to look like a typical fish. After several months, when the fish has developed its tiger-like markings, it is known as a parr or a smolt. The adult salmon will stay in the ocean from two to four years before returning to its birth place.

Cliff

And just in case anyone is wondering what Cyndy is doing – well I am still mending nets and I know there are more nets ready and waiting for me!

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Spawning at the Hatchery

A hatchery’s first step in raising fish is capturing male and female fish in the wild. Fishermen help by donating their catch to the hatchery or fish are caught in the hatchery traps. It is illegal to keep wild steelhead trout in Oregon, only those fish raised by the hatchery can be kept. Hatchery fish have had their adipose fin clipped which is located on the back of the fish just in front of the tail.

When the female is ready to lay her eggs she is placed in a small tub that has a calming solution, making her easier to handle.

Pressurized air pumped through a hose is used to force the eggs out of the female. In the picture below, the orange/pink stream of fluid going into the pail are her eggs. A 12 pound female can produce 10,000 eggs (these trout lay about 1,000 eggs times their weight in pounds). Note: the light patch of skin on this female was caused by the way the fisherman handled her.  Once the female has laid her eggs she is returned to the stream from which she was caught. Unlike salmon, a steelhead trout can lay eggs repeatedly for several years in a row.  A salmon dies after she lays her eggs the first time.

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Each fish (both male and female) are tagged. We record those tag numbers before collecting their eggs or sperm (see the picture below).  If you look closely you can see the two orange tags in her back.

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The eggs have to now be fertilized. Once the males have been placed in the calming solution and their tags are recorded they are “milked.” That’s my word because the staff member squeezes the male around the mid-section of its body and moves his hand down the length of the trout’s body. The eggs from one female fish are mixed with the sperm from one male fish.

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These fertilized eggs are then taken to the hatchery where they are placed in trays until they hatch.

Cliff

Sidebar – Raising Salmon

April 14, 2015

Today I got to watch and help the hatchery staff move spring Chinooks that are  2”-3” long to a larger pond where they will more than double in size. Moving 2 tons of small fish is a pretty amazing process. It begins by placing a pump at one end of the tank that will suck them up and dump them into a tank that sits in the bed of a truck.

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Here is what that pump looks like.  It inserts into a screened barrier.  The fish are sucked into the pump and travel up this orange tube.

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This pump was originally designed to suck tomatoes out of a washing tank so the hatchery staff assumed that if it didn’t hurt tomatoes it would not hurt the fish. The blades are ceramic and protect the fish.

What looks like a screen door is turned sideways to herd the fish towards the pump.

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A small fishing type net is used to catch a sampling of about 200 fish. They are then weighed and counted to get the number of fish per pound. Fifty fish weigh about one pound. Below the two guys on the left are counting fish.

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They use these strainers to count 4-6 fish at a time and then dump them back into the tank.

This pump below is connected to a sorting machine. One part of the tank sends the fish down a shoot to the truck and the second part of that tank diverts the water back into the pond.

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This truck will hold two tons of fish. Once this truck reaches the larger pond they simply attach a 6” hose to the back of the tank and open the valve.

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This Chinook salmon was caught by one of the staff and is 35” long and weighs 25 pounds. This guy grew and grew and then became dinner!

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Cliff

Tillamook and Oceanside OR

April 7, 2015

It does rain a lot here but then the sun comes out and it is beautiful, lush and green. We contrast that with dry and brown Colorado and wonder which we like better. Oceans and mountains and toss in eating seafood, seems like a good life to me. The little house next to our trailer houses a washer, dryer, refrigerator and freezer for the hosts (us!) to use. It is really a great location and Trask takes good care of their hosts.

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We finished up working on Sunday with Cliff cleaning up the kitchen and staff area and he really cleaned. He pulled everything off the shelves and gave it a wipe, good man and I did not even prompt him to do that. I continued to work on the same fish net and I am not finished yet. You have to spot the areas where only one thread has come loose and will soon be a big hole. So now I am looking for the “holes to come in the future” in this big old 60 foot net. I hear they have another net for me to work on and this one is even bigger than the one I am currently working on!

He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed! For the first time in forever, we did not make it to church on Easter Sunday. We are looking forward to watching the Flatiron’s Easter service online when it is available. It is hard to be away from family on holidays but good friends are close by and our dinner gathering was a family affair. Ed and Connie are our partners on this RV adventure, also living full time in their RV and volunteering in a different fish hatchery about 3 hours away. We will spend the summer with them in Fairbanks and on several of our upcoming jobs we will be together. It is good to have friends close by wherever you live!

We toured the Tillamook Cheese factory last week and it is much as we imagined it would be. An amazing selection of Tillamook ice cream, cheeses and fudge plus a store filled with all kinds of gourmet foods from all over the world and a gift shop full of pottery and trinkets. A bit too much on the “made in china” type of stuff but it was fun to look through the shops and enjoy an ice cream treat. Cliff wandered through the factory where the cheese is made but it was too many stairs for me so I looked through the shops again.

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Monday and Tuesday are our days off, just in case you are planning to visit! Yesterday we took care of 4 loads of laundry, cleaning up the trailer and getting groceries. Today we headed out to Oceanside to see the water and find good seafood for dinner. We found both and some hang gliders and beautiful views.

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Cliff and Cyndy

Sidebar: The Hatch House

April 7, 2015

A benefit of working in a hatchery is learning how they raise fish. At Trask, they raise Steelhead, Fall Chinook and Spring Chinook. First they catch male and female fish in traps set in the various rivers near the hatchery. Once those parents lay their eggs and fertilize the eggs, the eggs are placed in incubators in the Hatch House. In the picture below the incubator trays are on the left and from time to time we go through them to discard the dead eggs as they attract fungus.

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Below is a tray of Steelhead trout eggs and the white eggs are dead. We pick them out with large tweezers. The dead eggs are counted to help determine a good estimate of how many good eggs are left, but we also weigh the remaining good eggs to estimate the number of those eggs. Healthy eggs are on the left and dead eggs on the right.

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You can see how time consuming this task may be by looking at the number of trays on each side of this room.  I’m helping Craig.  I found it interesting that they can adjust the incubation period by the temperature of the water. Warmer water speeds up the process and colder water slows it down.

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Steelhead Trout can lay eggs for several seasons where salmon die after laying their eggs after just one season. Once the Steelhead parents spawn they are released back into the stream where they were trapped.

Cliff

Trask Fish Hatchery Tillamook OR

April 1, 2015

First Day on the job! We felt like kindergartners getting ready for our first day of school. We had to get things ready the night before because we start work at 7:30am and we have not been early risers for the past 6 months. We made it out the door and it was again raining, it seems to do that here.

We were the new kids on the block and we met Craig who has been here since the 90’s and loves his work. He set me up in the kitchen area of the shop/office with everything I would need to mend fish nets. He then took Cliff off to the shop to cut wood for the dams they use in the fish ponds. Just like that we were part of the group and pulling our weight.

Well sort of ….to mend the fish nets I was using a nail that had been fashioned into a needle but it was too wide to go smoothly through the net. I had a dull scissor to cut the waxed cording that is used to mend the nets. I had a lighter with which to burn the ends of the cording after tying a knot but I burned my fingers over and over again because holding onto the lighter and the net was awkward for me. So tomorrow I will have a real needle, a candle lighter that I can control and a good pair of scissors.

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Today Cliff helped Craig cut this lumber from 4″ X 10″ X 10′ beams down to 4′ long pieces and tomorrow they will notch them. FH3

When finished these boards are used to dam the water where the ponds empty. In the picture below the water is running over a board and you can see there is room for several more boards to help dam the water.

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This is Lee feeding the fish. The surface of the pond ripples as the fish go for the food. They have several more ponds that contain Chinook or King Salmon, the best salmon for eating. We will eat one in your honor!

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Cliff and Cyndy