Salmon Eggs To Fry

It’s been a pretty cool fall. I’ve learned more about the life-cycle of salmon this year than in all my previous combined. I caught my fist salmon when I was around twelve years old and most likely caught my first trout with Pautske Balls O’ Fire salmon eggs. Fishing with cured salmon roe has hooked me into every Hanford Reach fish I’ve caught. But for whatever the reason, I’ve never given the whole salmon egg life cycle much thought. My kid’s movie Finding Nemo taught me most of what I know about fish eggs.

Bonneville Hatchery

My son Gavin’s 3rd grade class did a study on salmon during the month of October. It was impressive how hands on the learning program was and how much both Gavin and I got out of it. In addition to classroom teaching, the class did a field trip to Bonneville fish hatchery.  Following the field trip, they raised 300 Chinook salmon fry from eggs in the classroom. The grand finale was releasing their “hatchery” Chinook into the Willamette River for their journey to the Pacific.

Following my 2017 Hanford Reach fishing trip, I was blessed to be a chaperone for the Bonneville field trip. Timing was perfect for the fall salmon return so the kids were able see lots of returning adult fish. In addition to salmon, the kids were able to see and feed trout and sturgeon. Unfortunately, the Eagle Creek gorge fire in that area just a month earlier had a noticeable impact to the habitat.

The 3rd grade class is now deep into a Native American study but the salmon fry were ready for release. Their feed sacks have dropped so this past Thursday, the class headed to the river for release. Only 275 of the original 300 eggs survived the classroom growing and it’s expected that only 2 will make it backup river as adults. There are a lot of small mouth bass lurking in the rocks where the kids released their salmon fry. Tongue in cheek, I am expecting to catch chunkier bass this coming spring and won’t hold my breath for the 2 returning Chinook