California Begins Sacramento River System Salmon Spawning

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The Feather River Hatchery has kicked off the statewide effort to spawn returning fall Chinook salmon. Department of Fish and Game (DFG) hatchery workers took more than half a million eggs during the first week of spawning. Over the next two months, the Feather River Hatchery will take approximately 12 million eggs in order to produce a total of 10 million Chinook salmon for release next spring.

The Feather River Hatchery is the first of the three major state-run hatcheries in the Sacramento River system to start spawning operations. Mokelumne and Nimbus hatcheries spawning operations will also commence later this fall, in October and November. Together, the three hatcheries should harvest enough eggs to raise more than 20 million young salmon for release into the Sacramento River and its tributaries next spring.

Each hatchery has a viewing area where visitors can watch the spawning process. At Nimbus and Feather River hatcheries, thousands of schoolchildren tour the facilities each year. The visitors center at Nimbus Hatchery includes a playground with replicas of giant salmon that are enjoyed by young and old alike. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at each hatchery, please visit the DFG website at

Around the state, there are eight state-run hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. Those hatcheries, along with federally run hatcheries, will together be responsible for the release of 40 million juvenile salmon into California waters. These massive spawning efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from spawning in historically used waters.

Today, hatcheries are multi-million dollar operations that employ scientific methods to spawn, rear and return healthy young salmon to various river systems each year. At each hatchery, a team of managers and staff monitor the progress of batches of eggs that will become tomorrow’s returning salmon, while pathologists work with each hatchery to ensure fish health. Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, one quarter of stock will be marked and implanted with a coded wire tag prior to release. DFG biologists use the information from the tags to chart their survival, catch and return rates.

source: CA DFG