Sunday, April 21, 2024

Salmon in the Classroom introduces students to fish life cycles


NESPELEM – Elementary classrooms in Pateros, Brewster, Bridgeport, and Pateros are among eight area schools where not only students but salmon thrive as well. It is all part of the “Salmon in the Classroom” program where the Chief Joseph Hatchery (CJH) is giving each school 150 to 200 fish eggs so students can learn about the life cycle of salmon. 

Colville Tribes Fish & Wildlife Public Relations Specialist Michelle Campobasso describes the hands-on learning experience. 

Under the supervision of teachers, students care, feed, and monitor the eggs as they watch them grow from fish eggs to fish fry. Once the fry are big enough the students get to release them into Columbia River tributaries or the main stem Columbia.

“Salmon eggs were brought to schools when the students returned from their winter breaks,” said CJH senior fish culturalist Ricardo Angel. “Fish are placed in their respective tanks, and we provide some information about the salmon and a table where teachers and students can enter daily temperatures and record their temperature units. If the salmon absorb their yolk sac completely, we provide some feed to keep the salmon sustained until they are ready to be released.”

CJH, located below Chief Joseph Hatchery in Bridgeport, was completed in May 2013 to increase spring, summer, and fall chinook salmon in the Okanogan and Columbia rivers. Since then, millions of smolts have been released each year from the hatchery and its three acclimation ponds. The hatchery provides salmon for tribal ceremonies, subsistence for tribal members, and recreational fishing.

In recent months, CJH staff have been busy caring for thousands of fish eggs, ponding (releasing) fish fry, feeding, marking, and transferring fish from the hatchery to the acclimation ponds located along the Okanogan River,

“We have been ponding and moving fish around as they grow in size,” said Angel. “We move them from incubation trays to troughs and then to raceways, getting them to size so we can run them through our marking and tagging process.”

The salmon must have their yolk sacs checked before ponding to make sure the sacs are absorbed.

“If they are ready to be ponded, we collect a sample into a mason jar and look at it from the bottom,” said Angel. “This gives a visual of what their bellies look like and if the yolk is mostly absorbed. We use temperature units that help us determine when the alevin have reached the        fry stage.”

Once the fish are fry size they are ponded into troughs. Each trough holds about 50,000 fish. At fry stage, the fish are marked and/or tagged as they are run through an automated system prior to being released. Marking fish this way helps fishermen and fisheries managers identify that it’s a hatchery fish.

Salmon smolts will be released this month from CJH and the acclimation ponds.

Number of trays of fish fry ponded out since the beginning of January:

  • 188 trays of integrated summer chinook.
  • 44 trays of segregated summer chinook.
  • 227 trays of CJH spring chinook.
  • 47 trays of MetComp spring chinook.

Total alevins on station:

Integrated summer chinook: 307,139.

Segregated chinook: 597,769.

Number of fish at the acclimation ponds:

Riverside – 213,079.

Brooks Tract – 203,010.

Similkameen – 320,840.

Number of fish currently at CJH:

  • BY22 segregated summer chinook (yearlings) – 483,523, release April 2024.
  • BY22 CJH spring chinook – 890,042, release April 2024.
  • BY23 integrated summer chinook (yearlings) – 369,013, release April 2025.
  • BY23 integrated summer chinook (sub-yearlings) – 104,467, release June 2024.
  • BY23 segregated summer chinook (sub-yearlings) – 135,584, release June 2024.
  • BY23 CJH spring chinook – 534,734, release April 2025.
  • BY23 MetComp spring chinook – 218,352, release April 2025.

Estimated number of fish fry to be released this year:

  • BY22 segregated summer chinook (yearlings) – 483,523.
  • BY22 CJH spring chinook – 890,042.
  • BY22 integrated summer chinook – 203,010. 


  • BY22 integrated summer chinook – 213,079.


  • BY22 integrated summer chinook – 320,840.


  • BY23 integrated summer chinook (sub-yearlings) – 104,467, release June 2024.
  • BY23 segregated summer chinook (sub-yearlings) – 135,584, release June 2024.

Total chinook fry – 2,350,545.

Mike Maltais: 360-333-8483 or


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here