TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Idaho Fish and Game has began the process of marking fish in their steelhead hatcheries.
Over the next 9 days, over one million steelhead will have their adipose fin cut off as they have reached the age to move from the hatchery to raceways.
The fish are moved into trailers where they are measured by size, then put into machines that take a picture of the fish and precisely cut the small fin off. Losing this fin causes no navigation issues and doesn't harm the fish in any way.
“Our numbers of steelhead have declined in the state of Idaho due to migration issues, ocean conditions, so what these hatcheries do is they allow us to rear fish in a more controlled environment,” said Terry Thompson, Regional Communications manager for Idaho fish and game.
This process gives steelhead a 85% survival rate inside the hatchery as opposed to natural spawn fish that see a less than 20% survival rate in the wild.
“They have all kinds of predator's water conditions change. Sediments, floods, all kinds of things come into play for the wild fish, so their survival is a lot lower,” said John Rankins, Hatchery manager for the magic valley hatchery.
This process also gives fisherman angling opportunity in the gem state as it provides a healthy population of steelhead in Idaho. This is in part because the hatcheries are own by Idaho fish and Wildlife who do this for the sake of compensating the steelhead population.
Steelhead struggle to pass through reservoirs and dams but hatcheries increase the population to help keep numbers up and allow angling of steelhead fish.
For more information on the current steelhead season, click here.