Hatcheries

Healthy hatcheries
help all Alaskans

In Alaska, salmon hatcheries supplement natural production and provide stability in the year-to-year harvest of salmon by all users—personal, sport, subsistence, and commercial.

In the Cook Inlet region, CIAA owns and/or operates four salmon hatcheries: Eklutna, Trail Lakes, Tutka Bay Lagoon, and Port Graham. Salmon are raised in the hatcheries from eggs to fry or smolt, then released to the ocean.

Hatcheries of the Cook Inlet

Port Graham

Port Graham Hatchery, located in the community of Port Graham, was purchased by CIAA in 2014 and put back into operation. This a pink salmon facility with the capacity to rear 84 million eggs based on current water availability. Fish are reared in the facility until they reach the fry stage and then they are temporarily reared in net pens in front of the hatchery. On average the time in the net pens is two months before they are released to the open ocean. The following year, we would expect to see about two million adult pink salmon return.

Visitor Information

Port Graham Hatchery is a remote hatchery located in the village of Port Graham in lower Cook Inlet.

Access to Port Graham is via boat or plane, typically out of the nearby town of Homer. Here you will learn all about pink salmon.

Because of this hatchery’s location we ask the following of visitors:

  • Proceed to the main office on the second floor and do not enter the first-floor incubation room.
  • Do not tie up any vessels to our net pens.
  • Do not sport fish within 100 feet of the net pens. 
  • Do not interfere with commercial vessels in Port Graham Bay while they are capturing the returning salmon.

Trail Lakes Hatchery

Trail Lakes

Located near Moose Pass, Trail Lakes Hatchery is operated by CIAA and owned by the State of Alaska. We have been operating the hatchery since 1988. This hatchery operates as a rearing facility only. No returns or releases occur directly at the hatchery itself but occur at other locations. The primary production is sockeye salmon, which is released at various locations in the Cook Inlet watershed including Bear Lake, Bear Creek, Resurrection Bay, Hidden Lake, Leisure Lake, Hazel Lake, Kirschner Lake, and Tutka Bay. Annual returns from stocking are expected to be about 400,000 sockeye.

Historically there have been few wild sockeye salmon in Resurrection Bay. Through the Trail Lakes Hatchery sockeye stocking program, CIAA provides these fish for both the increasingly popular sport fishery and the commercial fishery. Trail Lakes Hatchery also produces coho salmon that supports the sport fishery in Resurrection Bay, home of the Seward Silver Salmon Derby.

Visitor Information

Trail Lakes Hatchery is our most accessible hatchery because it is on the road system. At this hatchery, visitors will learn about sockeye and coho salmon. Here, we have a self-guided visitor’s center for people who want to stop in during open hours.  

Tutka Bay Lagoon

Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery, located in Tutka Bay, is a State-owned and CIAA-operated facility. This facility has been in operation since the late 1970s originally under ADF&G. We have been operating this facility since 1991. This is a pink salmon facility with the permitted capacity to incubate up to 125 million eggs. Fish are reared in the facility until they reach the fry stage and then they are temporarily reared in net pens in front of the hatchery. On average the time in the net pens is two months before they are released to the open ocean. The following year, we would expect to see about three million adult pink salmon return.

Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery also supports the sockeye salmon production at Trail Lakes Hatchery for the lower Cook Inlet stocking sites. This happens because the sockeye salmon fry raised for the lower Cook Inlet sites are transferred from Trail Lakes Hatchery to Tutka Bay Lagoon hatchery for release. The adults return to Tutka Bay Lagoon, where hatchery staff take the eggs and milt and then send them back to Trail Lakes Hatchery.

Visitor Information

Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery is one of our remote hatcheries, located in Kachemak Bay State Park. The normal mode of getting there is via boat such as one of the water taxis that runs from Homer to places places throughout Kachemak Bay. We routinely receive visitors that are combining a hiking, fishing, or kayak trip with a visit to the hatchery. At Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery visitors will learn primarily about pink salmon aquaculture.

Because of this hatchery’s location we ask the following of visitors:

  • Only enter buildings when accompanied by CIAA staff.
  • Do not tie up any vessels to our net pens.
  • No sport fishing within 100 feet of the net pens. 
  • Do not interfere with commercial vessels in the lagoon while they are capturing the returning salmon.

The Eklutna Salmon Hatchery, located on the Old Glenn Highway near Palmer, is owned by CIAA. Although the hatchery has not been in operation since 1998, it serves as a temporary rearing facility for sockeye and coho smolts during the water shortages at the Trail Lakes Hatchery. The facility is also used by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to imprint and release Chinook and coho salmon smolt prior to their release to the Eklutna Tailrace. 

Commercial fishing funds salmon for many uses

CIAA hatcheries and other programs are funded by the state salmon enhancement tax collected by commercial processors and benefit all fishing, including personal, recreation, sport, and commercial.

How do you mark a salmon’s ear bone?

All of the salmon in our hatcheries are marked. The eggs are exposed to hot and cold water cycles before they hatch, causing certain rings to develop on their otoliths (ear bones).

This process is called thermal marking and is done by heating the hatchery water in a particular pattern. This pattern, called a “thermal mark code,” is assigned by ADF&G and is specific to each stock or area where salmon are released.

When the thermally-marked fish migrate out of a watershed as juveniles or return as adults, CIAA biologists and technicians remove the otoliths from some of the fish to identify which fish were incubated in a hatchery. In the laboratory, the otoliths are analyzed for the unique and distinct mark—a mark that will provide the fish’s origin and age.

The results provide us with valuable information as to how well the hatchery program is working and the population characteristics of juveniles and returning salmon. This information can then be used to adjust the hatchery program to achieve the best survival rates possible. Data collected from the otoliths are used in models to forecast adult returns, thereby improving the accuracy of future return projections.

Key Terms

Brood Stock

Salmon used to produce the next generation

Common Property

Fish available to all permitted harvesters in a fishery

Cost Recovery

Salmon harvested for the purpose of generating revenue to cover hatchery operations

Egg Take

Also known as “egg collection”—the process of collecting eggs from female salmon for incubation in the hatchery

Fry

A recently hatched fish whose yolk sac is no longer visible

Hatchery

A facility in which salmon eggs are incubated and reared to early juvenile stage

Release Site

A location where fry or smolts are released

Smolt

Juvenile salmon emigrating from fresh to salt water that are physiologically able to survive in salt water