Gone fishin’.

Have you ever wondered how a fish hatchery works? Mount Baker FFA in Deming, Wash., is well versed in the subject after raising steelhead trout in a hatchery and then releasing them.

The steelhead trout is similar to a salmon in that it migrates to sea as a juvenile and returns to fresh water as an adult to spawn. Pacific salmon die following spawning, but the steelhead trout may spawn more than once and return to the water source after each spawning.

Twenty-two FFA members helped manage the McKinnon Hatchery for six months, feeding the fish, calculating water flow to the hatchery, recording density ratios and water quality, and weighing the fish to calculate their food-to-weight ratio.

The group increased the water flow rate from 850 gallons per minute to 1,150 per minute, which aided in the overall health and growth of the fish. At the end of the process, the steelheads had a 95 percent survival rate, the highest in the hatchery’s history. In all, Mount Baker FFA raised and released 50,000 steelhead trout into the Nooksack River in 2009 – 10,000 more than their original goal.

The Mount Baker FFA chapter was a finalist in the National Chapter Models of Innovation award program in the area of Community Development.

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