Issaquah Salmon Hatchery spawns chinook, coho

November 6, 2012

FISH docent Grace Reamer holds a handful of chinook salmon eggs for students at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery on Oct. 30. By Greg Farrar

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery workers and volunteers sloshed around in 40-degree water Oct. 30, as the annual effort to spawn coho salmon started again.

Teams from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery plan to collect 1.2 million coho eggs. The process to spawn coho started about a month after hatchery workers and volunteers started spawning chinook. In the resulting effort, teams collected 2.2 million eggs.

FISH Executive Director Jane Kuechle and John Kugen, hatchery foreman, said the partnership between the nonprofit organization and the state agency is essential for the survival of Issaquah Creek salmon — and the hatchery.

The hatchery, a fixture in downtown Issaquah for 75 years, spawns and raises coho and chinook.

State fisheries experts expected a more robust chinook salmon return but a smaller coho salmon return to Puget Sound streams in 2012.

“It comes and goes,” Kugen said. “The best one that we had that I can remember was 2001, when we had 18,000 coho and then a couple years ago we had 13,000. Coho come back in bigger numbers because they’re released as bigger smolts. They’re about 7 or 8 inches long, so there’s less predation on them than chinook.”

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FISH lures public to annual meeting

October 30, 2012

Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery volunteers and hatchery crews spawned 996 chinook in the past month, as the autumn salmon run transformed the hatchery into a hub of activity.

Now, residents can learn more about the salmon conservation efforts spearheaded by FISH at the nonprofit organization’s annual meeting next month.

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Issaquah Salmon Hatchery history is focus of 75th anniversary program

July 17, 2012

Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery
The historic Issaquah Salmon Hatchery started raising salmon along Issaquah Creek in 1937.

The iconic Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is celebrating 75 years, and to mark the occasion, the Issaquah History Museums is educating residents about the downtown facility — a lifesaver for countless salmon since the 1930s.

Conservationists and longtime Issaquah residents credit the hatchery for restoring the historic Issaquah Creek salmon runs after decades of logging and mining damaged the creek and surrounding watershed.

The program is among a series of events to commemorate the 1937 hatchery opening.

Jane Kuechle, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery executive director, plans to offer attendees a glimpse at the hatchery from throughout the decades.

“It’ll be a past, present, future kind of presentation,” said Laile Di Silvestro, Issaquah History Museums program coordinator.

In 1936, Works Progress Administration crews started to build the hatchery complex on a former city park and bandstand.

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Grandparents get a hands-on lesson in salmon’s circle of life

March 27, 2012

Jerry Pearson and his grandson Dylan Pearson, 5, release salmon fry into Issaquah Creek March 21 under the Northwest Sammamish Road crossover with other Issaquah School District classroom students, teachers and parents. By Greg Farrar

Five-year-old Dylan Pearson took extra care as he crept his way across the rocks under the watchful eye of his PeePah to the edge of the creek to release the young salmon fry swimming at the bottom of his plastic cup.

Participating in the life cycle of the salmon was an important lesson that Dylan’s grandfather, Issaquah native Jerry Pearson, wanted to teach his grandson. Pearson can still remember the salmon spawning in Lewis Creek near his home when he was the same age as his grandson.

“Sharing this moment and the lessons we learn about the renewal of life are things that I will never forget,” Jerry Pearson said. “Hopefully, the salmon will inspire Dylan to nurture new life and then set it free.”

The youngster and his grandfather joined third-graders from Apollo Elementary School on March 21 to release more than 230 small coho salmon that were raised from eggs in their classroom into Issaquah Creek behind Pickering Barn. Many students were sad; others cheered as they watched the tiny fish swim away.

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Salmon in the Classroom program spawns gift to Clark Elementary School

March 6, 2012

The long-running Salmon in the Classroom program at Clark Elementary School remained afloat due to a donation from a former student.

Issaquah native Jerry Pearson, a Snoqualmie attorney and former Clark Elementary student, said childhood memories of salmon in Lewis Creek and concerns about budget cuts to public schools inspired the donation.

“It’s important for kids to know that the salmon are an important part of the culture in the Northwest,” he said. “They need to know that salmon are so much more than just the logo on posters for Salmon Days.”

Pearson recalled fishing for trout and perch in Lewis Creek as a boy growing up near the south end of Lake Sammamish.

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Hatchery salmon make ultimate sacrifice for species’ survival

October 1, 2011

Concrete troughs hold young hatchery-bred salmon at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Contributed

NEW — 6 a.m. Oct. 1, 2011

There are steps in the process that may not be pretty, but it’s all aimed at aiding in the survival of Pacific salmon.

In hopes of eventually releasing millions of young salmon back into local waters, workers and volunteers at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery harvest nearly 2,000 mature chinook and coho salmon annually. They also take in kokanee from Lake Sammamish.

The chinook and coho check into the hatchery via Issaquah Creek. This year, the first fish arrived Aug. 23. Those tabbed to help with ushering in a new generation don’t check out.

Some people are surprised to learn mature salmon are killed for artificial breeding purposes, admitted Darin Combs, hatchery manager. Visitors can watch the fish being collected and processed. Combs said somewhat surprisingly to him, adults have the strongest negative reactions. Children aren’t as offended, sometimes asking to see the fish remains. The important thing to remember, Combs said, is that all salmon — males and females — die after spawning.

The first salmon to reach the hatchery are chinooks. Biologically driven to go upstream to spawn, the fish only have one way to go once they reach the facility, Combs said, and that is up the hatchery fish ladder and into holding ponds. The first harvest of male and female chinooks is completed in late September.

“You have to get your hands on the fish,” Combs said. “So you get in the water in your waders and you grab the fish by the tail one at a time.”

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FISH stewardship salvages Salmon in the Classroom

September 27, 2011

Under a plan hatched after state support for the Salmon in the Classroom program dissolved, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is serving as the coordinator for more than 100 schools involved in the popular program.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife used to administer the program, but after state lawmakers drained Salmon in the Classroom dollars last year, a grassroots effort formed to salvage it.

FISH is in the midst of a fundraising effort to facilitate Salmon in the Classroom. The nonprofit organization needs to raise $10,000 for the effort to succeed.

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Group fishes for revival of Salmon in the Classroom program

August 9, 2011

Liza Rickey (left), Clark Elementary School teacher, with fifth-graders including Aria Soeprono and Rebecca Ellis, watch as their coho fry swim away. By Greg Farrar

Like the miniscule fish reared in the program, Salmon in the Classroom could return.

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Salmon in the Classroom reaches crossroads

March 29, 2011

Clark Elementary School students (from left) Callie Mejia, 10, Hannah Halstead, 10, Jackson Rubin, 10, and Caelan Varner, 11, take turns feeding the coho salmon fry growing in the science room aquarium. By Greg Farrar

Questions remain about start-up costs, permits

For a Clark Elementary School class, raising coho salmon from eggs no larger than a BB pellet to miniscule fish is part lesson, part ritual.

Students traipse down the hallway from class to the aquarium in a science room in the morning, again at lunchtime and before the last bell rings in the afternoon. Using a small spatula, students scoop salmon food — a coarse substance similar to dirt in color and texture — into the aquarium.

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FISH executive director to step down March 31

March 15, 2011

Some details about salmon eluded Gestin Suttle in April 2003, as she settled in as the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery executive director.

“I knew some basic things about salmon, but I would not have called myself an expert by any means,” she recalled. “There was a sharp learning curve for me.”

Gestin Suttle

Now, eight years and countless coho later, Suttle is a sought-after source for salmon information.

“Every day, I learn something new,” she said.

Suttle plans to resign from the salmon-centric organization March 31. The former journalist and Sammamish resident accepted a position as a public relations coordinator for the local YWCA.

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