Timely operations to clip steelhead fins to help anglers identify harvest fish

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HAGERMAN, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) On Aug 30, more than 1 million juvenile steelhead trout are stored inside a hatch house at the Hagerman National Hatchery.

An Idaho Fish and Game official said about 30,000 steelhead trout are swimming inside bat containers.

"So they're very hungry and agitated," said Brian Thompson, Hagerman fish hatchery manager.

The steelhead remain inside the containers between two and three months until they’re ready to move onto their next phase.

They’re moved through fish pumps to the next location.

"We have anywhere up to 8-inch fish pumps all designed to move fish in a volume of water safely, stress free and injury free," Thompson said.

The steelhead end up in specialized marking trailers, where the fish land in sinks, it’s where the adipose fin clipping process begins.

Thompson said this is an important process because It lets anglers know if it the fish were raised in a hatchery.

"We have no fishing season on wild salmon or steelhead in Idaho,” Thompson said. “So these fish then take that place, so if angler catches a fish in the river he pulls it out, it’s missing the adipose fin that fish is legal for harvest, if the steelhead has the adipose fin, it’s a wild fish or an unmarked hatchery fish that we’re using forms some sort of program or release strategy.”

Since the fish can come in different sizes, not all fish will have their adipose fin removed automatically. Depending on the size, the fish will go through another system and an operator crew member will remove it manually.

After going through the marking and clipping process, they make their way into the hatchery’s raceways.

“We’ll feed them, take care of them and our ultimate goal is to produce an 8-inch fish, which we’ll being shipping on April 1,” Thompson said.

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