In addition to destroying and threatening thousands of homes and businesses, the devastating Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties jeopardized the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Inland Chinook Salmon Program – until the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville came to the rescue. The Feather River Fish Hatchery is owned and maintained by the California Department of Water Resources – and operated by CDFW.
Each year, CDFW raises approximately 800,000 Chinook salmon smolts and fingerlings for planting and recreational fishing in large foothill and valley reservoirs from Fresno County to Trinity County. These landlocked salmon often grow quite large and fill an ecological and recreational angling niche in these deep-water impoundments not typically occupied by other fish species.
The state record inland Chinook salmon came from Trinity Lake in 2013 weighing 20 pounds, 15 ounces. Anglers regularly catch inland Chinook salmon weighing 7 to 8 pounds at Lake Oroville and 5 to 6 pounds at Folsom Lake.
The inland Chinook salmon originate with eggs collected and spawned at the Feather River Fish Hatchery each fall from salmon returning to the Feather River. The eggs and fish are excess to the hatchery’s annual production goals. About 1.4 million Chinook salmon eggs were collected from the Feather River Fish Hatchery in early October and designated for the Inland Chinook Salmon Program.
Ordinarily, most of these eggs are taken to CDFW’s Silverado Fisheries Base in Napa County for incubation, where they remain until the baby salmon are big enough for stocking. The Silverado Fisheries Base suffered power outages and came under threat of evacuation as a result of the Glass Fire.
In response to the emergency and with assistance from CDFW’s Inland Chinook Salmon Program staff, temporary adjustments were made at the Feather River Fish Hatchery to keep the eggs,