From May to September, both our Fish Ladder staff and Wildlife Resource Manager had the opportunity to assist the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery on a number of breeding and stocking projects. Each year the fish hatchery supports the native Yukon River Chinook salmon population by contributing 120,000-150,000 hatchery-raised Chinook fry. The fry are reared from brood stock collected from migratory salmon through the fish ladder at the Whitehorse Dam. The purpose of the fry are to help offset the impacts of the dam on annual salmon migration. In May and June, our staff were busy helping clip the small, fleshy adipose fins off this year’s batch of fry. Removing this fin has no adverse impacts on the fry and it helps fish ladder staff and researchers identify wild salmon from hatchery ones once adults return to their natal streams during migration. In a normal year, a portion of these fry are released as part of an outreach program at Wolf Creek where local youth get to interact first hand with Chinook salmon. Unfortunately given the COVID-19 Pandemic, this event was cancelled this year, with efforts instead focused fully on stocking known natal grounds such as Mitchie Creek and the M’Clintock River. Fry were transported by helicopter into these more remote locations where they will grow and mature before heading out to the Pacific Ocean. After 4-6 years adults will return to these natal grounds and pass through the fish ladder. During this year’s Chinook run, hatchery staff collected brood stock from a portion of migrating fish to ensure the breeding program could continue. YFGA staff also assisted with this project throughout August and September, which involved egg and milt collection and fertilization for next year’s batch of fry.
Apart from the Chinook enhancement project, the fish hatchery also supports the Yukon Stocked Lakes program. The hatchery raises a number of fresh water species including Kokanee salmon, Arctic Char and Rainbow trout for release into Yukon’s 18 stocked lakes. This year, YFGA staff helped the fish hatchery hand stock Hidden Lakes and Long Lake as part of the program. These pothole stocked lakes are highly sought after by local anglers and help support a more sustainable approach to recreational fishing as less pressure is placed on native species in larger lakes. Check out our new Stocked Lakes series for tips and tricks on fishing Yukon’s Stocked Lakes!