Thursday, August 23, 2001
(Editor's Note: This is the seventh in a series of articles on Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, leading up to the facility's 100th anniversary in September.)
1940s -- annual salmon harvest drops to 20 million pounds.
1950s -- annual salmon harvest drops to 9 million pounds.
Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery (NFH) has always raised fall chinook salmon. In the past, several species of trout were also reared. By 1945, tule fall chinook was the only species raised.
Throughout the first half of the Twentieth Century, the egg take averaged 16 million annually with the exception of a few years of poor returns.
The time of release for the salmon fry was typically spread over several months so as not to release all the fish at once, and occurred between February and May.
As a supplement to the Spring Creek return, trapping continued in the White Salmon River until the 1950s when a fish ladder, holding, and rearing facilities were constructed.
Eggs were taken from the White Salmon returned until 1966. For the next 15 years, some fry continued to be reared and released from the White Salmon site.
The fall run is predominant in this region. Fall-run fish return in late August and spawn within a few weeks.
These fall-run chinook salmon are often called "tule" and are distinguished by their dark skin coloration and advanced state of maturation at the time of freshwater entry.
Tule fall-run chinook salmon populations may have historically spawned from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Klickitat River.
Whatever spawning grounds were accessible to fall-run chinook salmon would have been inundated following the construction of Bonneville Dam.
A significant fall run once existed on the Hood River prior to the construction of Powerdale Dam in 1929 and other diversion and irrigation dams; however, this run had become severely depleted and may had been extirpated.
The White Salmon River supported runs of chinook salmon prior to the construction of Condit Dam in 1913. Fall-run fish from the White Salmon River were used to establish the Spring Creek NFH in 1901.
Today, the Spring Creek tule stock maintains a genetic link with the indigenous fall chinook of the White Salmon River.