The annual process of spawning millions of salmon is in full swing in Oroville as the Feather River Fish Hatchery continues the two-month process of harvesting over 15 million salmon eggs.
The Feather River Fish Hatchery raises Chinook salmon and steelhead along the Feather River, just below Lake Oroville. The hatchery is wonderful place to learn about the salmon spawning process and includes an underwater window to see the hatchery displays and a viewing area of the fish ladder.
The Department of Fish & Wildlife says they’ll likely harvest more than 3 million Spring-Run Chinook Salmon eggs and 12 million Fall-Run eggs over the next two months. The process of harvesting salmon is a long and arduous journey, but hatchery officials hope to give the salmon the best opportunity to survive and spawn in the future.
Hatchery officials extract the eggs from the returning salmon and manually harvest them in the facility. Once the eggs become baby fish, they are released into the river, where they begin the long journey to the Pacific Ocean. After three years in the ocean, they use their natural GPS system to return through the Delta, up the Sacramento River to the Feather River. Then the process begins all over again.
The new salmon spawning season comes after nearly three years of tribulation for salmon populations on the Feather River. When the Oroville Dam spillway collapsed in February 2017, thousands of salmon were killed downstream in the Feather River. Following the crisis, local fishing groups pressured officials to raise more fish in the following years to make up for those lost during the collapse.
This year, the annual Oroville Salmon Festival has been cancelled due to Covid-19, so the Forebay Aquatic Center is instead hosting kayak salmon viewing floats along the Feather River every Saturday in October. Organizers are hoping they can give visitors the chance to see the annual salmon runs up close while maintaining social distancing. For more information of the kayak tours, go here.