Fish making their way to the Oroville hatchery pass through the stream profile area. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Man-made problems often take man-made solutions.

That’s what’s happening at the Feather River Fish Hatchery in order to help increase the Chinook salmon populations. It’s people that have depleted the numbers of fish and it is people trying to rectify the problem.

“… beginning in 1970, the population experienced a dramatic decline—a low of approximately 200 spawners by the 1980s. The run was classified as endangered under the state California Endangered Species Act in 1989, and as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1994,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The California Department of Water Resources, which runs the hatchery in Oroville, has set up a guided walk that explains much of the process.

Fish enter the ladder on the Feather River to start their journey to the hatchery. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

From a viewing platform near the man-made barrier that was created to prevent the fish from going farther upstream is the start of the fish ladder. This is how the fish get to the hatchery.

About 20 percent of the spawning fish end up at the hatchery, while the remainder stay in the river. Either way, the end result is death.

The way to know if it’s a wild fish or a hatchery one is at the hatchery the adipose fin is removed before release.

Fish at the hatchery are tranquilized before the eggs and milt are removed by workers. On average 2,000 eggs are harvested per female.

“The fertilized eggs are transferred to the hatchery incubator trays. Each tray contains about 10,000 eggs. Fresh Feather River water circulates in the trays to mimic nature,” a sign at the hatchery says. “The salmon’s chances are survival at the hatchery are increased 70-80 percent as compared to in the wild.”

The fry, fingerlings, and yearlings are taken to what’s called the raceway. This is where they will grow large enough to be released back into the Feather River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or San Francisco Bay. They get to those locations via oxygenated tanker trucks.

The incubation center at the Feather River Fish Hatchery. (Image: Kathryn Reed)



  • Address: 5 Table Mountain Boulevard, Oroville
  • Phone: 530.538.2222
  • Cost: Free

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