Idaho Fish and Game’s McCall Fish Hatchery will be closed to the public starting Oct.1 to allow construction of two holding ponds. During the months of June, July, and August, the new holding ponds will be used to house adult Chinook salmon broodstock awaiting spawning, and will allow the hatchery to more efficiently address challenges posed by low flows and high water temperatures on the South Fork Salmon River.
Summer Chinook salmon is the primary species produced at McCall hatchery, with fish coming from the South Fork Salmon River. Historically, adults have been trapped, held, and spawned at a satellite facility on the South Fork Salmon River near Warm Lake during the summer months. The fertilized eggs were then transported to the main McCall Hatchery facility for incubation and rearing.
The frequency of low flows and high water temperatures on the South Fork Salmon River during summertime has increased, however, making the holding ponds (which sources water directly from the river) at the satellite location unsuitable for holding adult fish. As a temporary measure in recent years, McCall hatchery staff have transported adult Chinook salmon trapped on the South Fork Salmon River to holding ponds at the Rapid River Hatchery to await spawning, before returning the fertilized eggs to the McCall Hatchery.
The upcoming construction project will provide a more permanent solution to these challenges.
“Building these adult holding ponds on location gives us greater control of the water conditions in which adults are held,” said Bob Becker, Hatchery Complex Manager in Fish and Game’s Southwest Region. “Water for the new holding ponds will have the same water source — Payette Lake — as the rest of the McCall Hatchery and provide much more predictable and hospitable flows and temperatures.”
The McCall Hatchery receives rearing water from two sites on Payette Lake, a surface inlet for spring and fall use, and a deep inlet for mid-summer and winter use. Water from both inlets can be mixed to maintain water temperatures.
The hatchery will reopen to the public upon completion of the holding ponds. While that date will be flexible depending upon how quickly the project moves along, it is anticipated that the hatchery will welcome public visitors again sometime this winter. Staff plan to tie into the plumbing in the spring, and anticipate holding adult Chinook at the McCall facility in the summer of 2023.
The McCall Fish Hatchery is located within the city limits of McCall, approximately a quarter-mile south of Highway 55 at 300 Mather Road. Constructed in 1979, it is the first Lower Snake River Compensation Plan hatchery built in Idaho, part of a federal mitigation program created to compensate for fish loss due to the construction of the four Lower Snake River dams. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game operates the hatchery with funding provided through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Lower Snake River Compensation Program.