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South Santiam Hatchery - Fish production

South Santiam Hatchery annually rears and releases in conjunction with other state operated fish hatcheries approximately 1 million spring Chinook and 145,000 summer steelhead for the So. Santiam River. With an additional 40,000 summer steelhead to the North Santiam River. The hatchery annually takes approximately 2.5 million spring Chinook and 1.75 million summer steelhead eggs for the use in the state hatchery system.

South Santiam Hatchery Facts 

  • 14 Burrows rearing ponds and one adult holding pond.
  • A staff of four employees.
  • An RV site for hatchery host volunteers.
  • Yearly release approximately 108,000 pounds of juvenile fish.
  • Annual feed approximately 120,000 pounds of fish feed.
  • Approximately 11.7 million gallons of water flows through the 14 rearing ponds daily.
  • Returning adults placed into hatchery holding pond do not require food during their stay of up to 11 months.
Salmon rear in fresh water for a year to a year and a half before migrating to the ocean. Steelhead rear for a year and a half in fresh water before they migrate. At release salmon juveniles are about 6 inches in length and steelhead 7 inches.

These hatchery fish are not intended to replace wild populations, but are to enhance the numbers of fish available for the enjoyment of all anglers.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask one of our employees or hatchery hosts. You can also stop by the office located by the flag pole.

Spring Chinook

Spring Chinook adults spend three to four years in the ocean before returning to the hatchery. Averaging 15 pounds and weighing up to 40 pounds, these fish are a prize catch of anglers from the mouth of the Columbia river to the upper reaches of the Willamette river and its tributaries.

Summer Steelhead

Introduced to the Santiam river in the late sixties from Washington State this species of steelhead has gained both in numbers and popularity among anglers in the Willamette River system Adults return to the hatchery two to three years after being released. The average adult weighs 6 pounds but can reach up to 18 pounds.


Chinook salmon females will lay 4000 to 5000 eggs, steelhead 3500 to 4500 eggs.

The eggs are placed in incubation trays where they remain until hatched and the fry are free swimming

Raising Hatchery Salmon

In the wild, the female salmon releases her eggs into a depression in the gravel called a redd, that she has dug with her tail and the aid of the river's current. The male and female are side by side as the eggs and sperm are released into the redd. The female then covers the eggs by digging the gravel with her tail, up stream from the eggs, using the river's current to carry the gravel over the eggs. This process is repeated until all her eggs are expelled. A Chinook salmon's redd can be as large as 20 square feet in size.

Soon after spawning, both male and female will die, ending a trek that started in a remote stream or fish hatchery and covered thousands of miles in river and ocean.

Each September, hatchery workers and volunteers at the South Santiam Fish Hatchery mimic nature to assure a continued salmon resource. Salmon eggs are removed from female salmon, then fertilized with male salmon sperm. The fertilized eggs are put into incubators until the eggs reach the "eyed" stage, after about one month. The eggs are then shipped to other hatcheries to complete their incubation. Fingerlings from these egg shipments are later returned to South Santiam Fish Hatchery to rear. The salmon fry are then placed in rearing pools until large enough to release into the river. After several years in the ocean, mature salmon will return to the hatchery.

How salmon are raised at the South Santiam Fish Hatchery Definitions:
  • fry - small fish, especially young, recently hatched fish.
  • fingerling - a young or small fish, especially a young salmon or trout.
  • smolt - a young salmon ready to migrate to the ocean.
  • salmon - any of various large food and game fishes of the genera Salmo and Oncorhynchus, of northern waters, having delicate pinkish flesh and characteristically swimming from salt to fresh water to spawn.
  • steelhead - the anadromous variety (migrating up rivers from the sea to breed in fresh water) of rainbow trout, being larger and having darker spots than the freshwater variety.
  • chinook salmon - A very large, commercially valuable salmon of northern Pacific waters, characterized by irregular black spots on its back. Also called king salmon.
  • adipose fin - the fin on the back of a salmon closest to the tail.
  • dorsal fin - the main large top back fin.

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