I'm working as a Fish Culturist at Hidden Falls Salmon Hatchery in a remote spot near Sitka, Alaska! AM I CRAZY!? I'm starting to think so...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Mother to 1.4

YEAR 5. Can you believe this is the start of my 5th season!? Even though I’m going on my 5th year, things will be different this year. Roles are changing around here. Adam and I will not be going to Takatz this year. Adam will be “assistant managing” here and running the Hidden Falls chum project. As for me, I just became the mother to 1,400,000 beautiful babies! HA Ok maybe they aren’t beautiful, but they are kinda cute! I will be taking care of the babies in freshwater this year. Right now, I am working with the baby Chinook, but in a little bit, the baby coho will be out of incubation and I will be taking care of them too. Melissa and Ben are taking care of the older Chinook and coho, respectively, but once they release their fish in late May-July, I will pass my babies on to them.

I have only had the fish outside for a week and a half. We had to pond them a little early because they were too frisky! They were very active inside the incubators, which causes them to do a few things. They get stuck on the screens we have, which raises the water level in the incubator. They were jumping over the screens that were getting clogged up. Some would land in the front channel, but most would end up on the ground… to die. Also, since they are active and the water level is high, they tend to swim or jump over the side channels on the incubator. You’d probably have to really see a picture of our incubators to understand it totally but there is a channel that runs underneath the plate where the fish are, so the water can come up from the bottom. Well, when the fish go over the channels, they just live down there. However, SOOOO many fish were going over the channels so a few times a day, we had to pull the plugs and let them out of that channel. We were putting those fish into a round pond early. We were getting like 80,000 fish a day! Finally, after about a little less than a week of doing this, we decided they were ready to be ponded, even if it was a little early, meaning they still had their yolk sac to feed on.

Unlike chum ponding, we are only dealing with 2 incubators of fish, instead of 100! So to pond them, we just use a net and scoop the fish out. There are also bio-rings, the substrate that we use so the fish can burrow into it. So these get scooped up also but we pour the net of fish through a mesh basket to catch these bio-rings. Since so many of the fish had jumped out and into the channels, in some boxes, there weren’t very many fish in the incubator boxes. It was surprising. We even found a few boxes that had a bunch of dead fish in the side channels, meaning we must have been pulling out a lot, but not nearly as much as what was actually in there. They must have gotten too crowded and died. After ponding was over, and the fish were in the raceway, it took a while to get all those dead fish (and a bunch of bad eggs and fungus) out. We also transferred those fish we ponded earlier from the round pond into the raceway too so they could all be together.

So now I am feeding my babies 7 times a day, even though they still aren’t eating great. Since we ponded them a bit early, some of them are still using up their yolk sac. We usually try to pond fish at 3-4% yolk sac (meaning that 3-4% of their body weight is their yolk sac.) but we ponded the Chinook around 6%. My fish are still pretty low maintenance right now, so there isn’t that much to do with them. I just feed them every day. I will be sampling them once a week to determine how much they have grown. Even though I have essentially been doing this stuff with the chum and even with these fish before, I have never been the LEADER of the project. I was the one who fed them, but I was never the one to determine how much to feed. I am also learning the computer file we have to keep track of their progress. It is just an excel file but it is pretty intricate with spreadsheets and pivot tables and stuff.

Well, that’s about it for fish stuff… chum are still incubating, but I think we may start ponding them in about a week. Our new seasonals came on Tuesday. Two guys and one girl. The night they came, we got together for a fire. It was really cold too. But it was still fun. As soon as I got out there, Lyndsey, who is another seasonal, but worked half a year last year, said to me “Hey I have a bone to pick with you!” “UH OH!” She told me that the seasonals knew all about us and everything because of my blog! Apparently if you google Hidden Falls, eventually it will lead you to my blog. I did it and it was like 4 or 5 pages in though. So they were looking at all the pictures and everything, and they said it was helpful and the pictures were better than the pictures they got sent with their other information. It was pretty funny. Obviously, I know it’s not a private blog but I just never thought that the seasonals would find it! But I’m ok with that!

Well, in an unrelated matter, we have a bit of excitement! Adam might be buying a boat!! He is currently in town for that reason. He has had his eye on this one boat and decided to go in and check it out. Scott was in town and said he could check it out first to make sure it was decent before Adam came in, because Adam would have had to upgrade the plane to a bigger plane. So Scott checked it out and came back with a good report. Adam went in yesterday and checked it out. He really liked it. They weren’t sure if they could get it in the water for a test drive because it’s been so cold so everything was frozen, but they did and it he still liked it. The “kicker”, which is the extra little motor just in case your big one breaks when you are driving around, wasn’t working because the guy hadn’t run it for a year, so the owner was going to see if he could get it working. But whether it was working or not, Adam said he was going to probably buy it! I keep you posted but I should know within a day or two. It’s pretty exciting!! Especially since we are going to be here this spring, instead of Takatz, it will help A LOT to have a boat of our own, instead of having to fight for the company boat with everyone else.

I don’t really have any pictures to show yet. I have only taken pictures of the dog since I have been back. Well, til next time!

SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY: NINER!! Only 4 more months EXACTLY!! You are going to be the best visitor I've ever had! Oh wait......


Anonymous said...

HI Becky,

Cool blog and good work! All that education IS amounting to something!

BU\ut, when I said I wanted more Grandchildren, I didn't mean 1.4million fish babies.

Love DAD

Anonymous said...

BOBO! We're down to 3 months and 16 days! WOOO, can't wait!