Raising the Eggs


Photo by Melany Ramirez

Hatched Coho Salmon eggs at the United Angler of Casa Grande Hatchery

In late December 2021, the United Anglers students started to receive Coho Salmon eggs from a hatcher Santa Cruz, California. In past years, the students have taken care of Russian River Steelhead Trout, but they were tasked with caring for Coho Salmon this year. The students who pass the Tech 2 safety test have the privilege to take care of a tray of eggs alone or with a partner. Despite some challenges, they have seen more success. 

The United Angler started taking care of Coho Salmon eggs as of this year, since the Santa Cruz Hatchery was burnt down during the Estrada fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The United Anglers is an emergency facility and were asked to help take care of the Coho Salmon this year. 

The United Anglers’ job right now is to raise the Coho Salmon from eggs to fry (when they eat real food), and once they reach that stage, they are going to go back to Santa Cruz to their captive broodstock program. This whole process takes place to further the genetics of the species and continue to keep the fish out of extinction.  

Coho Salmon are an endangered species. When the coho salmon is at its alevin to fry stage it absorbs its yolk sac, while still being in its juvenile stage. Second year is when its sexually matured and on its third to fourth year its when its sexually matured and as well its ready to spawn. Their lifecycle may not be that long, but it is complex.

¨We take care of them because they are endangered and they need help. So we are glad to help the fishes and do something about it,¨ said a United Angler student Liam Cooke

The United Anglers facility has been working with steelhead trout for 40 years and has been working with King Salmon from late 1980-2010. This year, they will be taking care of Coho Salmons. 

When the eggs are first received, they stay in the incubator room. This is where both partners enter and carefully pick eggs to see which have died. The eggs stay in the incubator room because the fish cannot stand high brightness and loud noises, as these stress them out and cause them to die. So overall, the main challenge the coho salmon face is stress. 

As of right now, taking care of the Coho Salmon eggs is very simple. Both partners pick the dead eggs in the trays daily. It can take from 5 to 30 minutes to do this because they have to count every dead egg and there could be up to 1000 dead eggs. This process of picking up dead eggs from the trays occurs for two to three weeks straight. 

¨This is a straight two to three week job, you have to pick eggs every day, you lose a few everyday, but it’s important that we keep up on that because if we leave a dead egg in there, it can spread fungus which can cause the others to die, but if we do our job right we are able to accomplish and save a lot more fishes,¨ said a United Angler student Hudson Naber.

After the quiet stage where they spend two to three weeks picking the eggs is done, the fish stay in the incubator room until all of the eggs are hatched. Then the students would pawn (move) them into the troughs, where they stay for a month and a half to two months. The students try to limit the fish to the troughs because when they stay in the troughs you’re able to watch them eat. As the fish grow, the students then move them to the raceways to have more room. 

¨Every student is doing their part very well and doing their best on taking care of their fish,¨ said Naber. 

This year, the United Anglers get the unique experience of taking care of a new species–Coho Salmon–and are doing their part to help save yet another endangered species.