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Tracie Skarbo was motivated to write by her father, who was her biggest supporter. “He was always behind me, rallying me on with my writing. I would always see him with a book in hand. He gave me a great appreciation for the written word, and the power and responsibility that writers have to shape those who read their words. He also taught me to respect nature and to value the beauty within it; my reflections on my environment are just an extension of this.” Skarbo was raised on Vancouver Island and is working on her next two books.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fish Hatchery Field Trip


Today we went out for a field trip to the local fish hatchery.  Luckily when we arrived it was a bright and sunny day, a nice reprieve from the rain we have been having. 

The kids were running about here and there, anxious to get going on the nature walk and see what there was to see but once our guide started talking she captivated her young audience with her knowledge and questions.

We passed a stream where you could see some of the salmon dying.  At this point they have spawned and their lifecycle is over and they will become part of the food chain.  Whether it is the animals, insects or bacteria that consume them, the fish’s nutrients will eventually be recycled into the forests and provide fertilizer for the trees and plants.

These grey fish are on the bottom of the stream are covered with bacteria.  They have died and have started the decomposition process that will face all of the fish coming here to spawn.

Another shot where you can see a mix of live and dying fish in a spawning pool.  The female digs a hole for the eggs, then the male comes to fertilize them and once the egg is fertilized it floats to the bottom of the stream and sinks below the grade.  Only two out of the two thousand five hundred eggs will make it back to sea.  This is why hatcheries are helping out with the process.  With their intervention the odds are raised, and as many as twenty two to forty make back to sea.

This is a Nurse Stump.  Its decomposition supports new life.

A huge ant hill

Another huge ant hill
Fallen trees like this one make perfect hiding places for salmon.  Eagles and seagulls are just some of the many birds that come to feast as well as black bear and other animals.

Can you see the female salmon in the middle of the image?

There were many bent trees like this one along the pond.

This is a fish ladder; it helps the fish climb up a stream that is otherwise too steep, or the current too fast to climb naturally.


A huge tree with thick moss all the way up and around it.

This was a big tree on a slant.  So huge it would have taken 4 adults to circle the base.

More remains.

If you look at the back of the stream, almost to the other side of the bank you will see a little bit of the dorsal and back fin sticking out of the water.  This is a male.

A fallen tree that has now become a nurse log.  Supporting various life.

A female salmon in the big pond.


These are the pens they keep the female and male in to harvest the Milt from the males and the Eggs from the females.

This male has been put in solitary confinement in special liquid to make him sleepy so the milt can be harvested.
Here she is drying off the male to harvest the milt.

This is the amount of the milt that came out of the male.

Now for the female.

The female gets her own bath to make her sleepy.  She, unlike the male, will be killed and her blood drained in order to harvest the eggs.

Examples of the stages of life for young salmon.

Fry: 100 days old

Alevens: 45 days old

Eyed eggs: 22 days old

Eggs: 1 day old

The female being drained.

Getting ready to harvest the eggs.
A bucket full of harvested eggs.

Now the dissection of the female occurs.  The lucky male still has a couple more days worth of milting ahead of him.

This is a gill fin.  It covers the gills and help keep them free of debris.

These are the actual gills and I have been told they feel like “wet feathers”.

This is the fish heart.  It was quite remarkable seeing this because it kept beating after removal.  The woman told us this was due to nerves still firing.  I think she might have thought that this would inspire the kids.  But most of them moved on at this point, leaving only the brave and most of the adults to witness the rest of the dissection.

The fish liver.

The spleen

The stomach

The egg sac and some of the eggs that were not squeezed out previously.

The swim bladder, this is the part of the fish that allows the fish to be buoyant or to sink to the depths of the sea or rivers.

Unlike us fish have only one long kidney.
The dissection table.

The brain
The lens from inside the eye.

Feeding time for the young fry.
The young salmon feeding on the thrown pellets.

Scarring on the board from a bear in search of a quick lunch.



  1. Wow! Fantastic photography and wonderful comprehensive and educational explanations.
    Good work
    Thank You for sharing

  2. oh wow what an amazing adventure....we went to the hatchery in missouri on vacation this summer....was very cool...the boys enjoyed it much as well...and feeding the fish...smiles....that tree with all the moss is really cool....beautiful visuals of nature...

    great to see you ma'am...smiles.

  3. Thanks for coming by MJ...

    Brian, it was great to get out there and see this side of the life cycle... we will be going out there again in the spring and releasing some of the fish. It is so important to get the kids out there and respecting the environment that they live in. Thanks for coming by!