(Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles on Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, leading up to the facility's 100th anniversary in September.)
During the 1800s and early 1900s, the commercial catch was approximately 40 million pounds per year and the salmon fishery grew from 1 to 55 canneries.
Due to the Clackamas Station being an unsuitable site for egg collection, the U.S. Fish Commission began to look for new areas to collect eggs.
In the fall of 1896, the streams on both sides of the Columbia River, between Viento and Celilo Falls, were surveyed for the possible establishment of auxiliary substations for taking and eyeing salmon eggs.
The White Salmon River showed good prospect.
Historically, the White Salmon River contained both spring and fall chinook salmon runs. The following fall, two large racks and a downstream trap were constructed at the mouth of the Big White Salmon River and 3,415,000 eggs were secured and transported by boat to a site on the Little White Salmon River where other salmon eggs were being collected and incubated.
The fish were captured by means of a downstream trap. The trap consisted of a box about 20 feet long by 8 feet wide and 18 inches deep, made of slats placed 2 inches apart, anchored in midstream.
The end of the trap pointing upstream was weighted to the bottom of the river; a dam or rack extended from its two sides to within a few feet of either bank.
The fish ascended the stream, passed around the rack to the spawning grounds above, and as soon as a sufficient number had collected, a seine was drawn downstream at a rapid rate.
Although salmon always swim against the current, when frightened they turn and go rapidly downstream, and as a consequence they were brought to a halt upon the lower end of the trap.
Spawning operations comÿmenced in the morning and continued until all ripe fish had been stripped of either eggs or milt.
The fertilized eggs were then measured and carried in buckets to the hatchery. Each bucket contained about 15,000 eggs.
The baskets to which they were transferred on arrival at the hatchery held 25,000 to 40,000 eggs each, depending on the size of the troughs used.