ISSAQUAH -- In a move aimed at boosting the beleaguered Lake Washington
winter wild steelhead run, state and tribal fisheries officials on Thursday will release
nearly 13,000 progeny of the wild fish into one of the lake's tributaries.
The release will mark the first time that offspring of the wild fish run have been
reared in captivity at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, the only state hatchery on Lake
Washington. The fish, which will be released into Issaquah Creek, are progeny of a
small number of adult steelhead captured last year as they attempted to swim through
the Ballard Locks on the way upstream to spawn.
"This is clearly an important milestone in our effort to use the hatchery to rebuild
one of the state's most well-known wild fish runs," said Washington Department of Fish
and Wildlife Director Bern Shanks.
"We expect the Issaquah hatchery to continue to play a major role in the years
ahead as we work to manage this and other fish species in the Lake Washington
watershed," Shanks added.
The steelhead-rearing project was undertaken by WDFW in conjunction with the
Muckleshoot Indian tribe and Trout Unlimited. Volunteers from the fish conservation
group and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year assisted WDFW in capturing the
adult wild fish. Other progeny from the captured steelhead were raised at another state
hatchery and recently planted in other Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish
Over the years, the plight of the Lake Washington wild steelhead population has
been well documented as returning steelhead have been devoured at the locks by
hungry sea lions. The steelhead's problems have been compounded by the
destruction or alteration of its habitat upstream from the locks.
By hatching the adult steelhead eggs artificially and then raising the young fish a
year or so in a hatchery, biologists expect to produce more steelhead than would have
hatched and survived under natural conditions, said Kathy Hopper, who oversees
WDFW hatchery operations in the northern Puget Sound area.
"We see this endeavor as part of the changing role of the Issaquah hatchery,
which has only raised salmon in past years," she said.
Hopper said 14 adult males and 10 adult females, or about four percent of all
returning steelhead, were captured for the project in 1997. A similar number of fish
already have been captured this year. The breeding program may continue for the next
several years, although the effort could be halted early if it is determined enough
steelhead are returning on their own for spawing purposes.
Hopper said plans are in the works to improve water quality at the hatchery,
which plays host to more visitors than any other state hatchery. In addition, major
renovation projects are taking place at the hatchery, including expansion of its
"We are grateful to all the people working to recover the Lake Washington
steelhead, and are extremely happy that the hatchery is lending an important hand in
the effort," said Steve Bell, executive director of the non-profit volunteer group Friends
of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (FISH).
"As I've said before, these fish have been honored guests here," Bell said.
Editor Note: The fish are scheduled to begin their migration to sea when the screens
are removed from the hatchery ponds at 11 a.m. on Thursday. The hatchery is located
at 125 W. Sunset Way, Issaquah. For further information call Bell at (425)392-3180.