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Salmon River Fish Hatchery

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Sign at hatchery entrance reading: Salmon River Fish Hatchery
Entrance to Salmon River Fish Hatchery
Visitor Center

Each year, DEC releases over one million pounds of fish into more than 1,200 public streams, rivers, lakes and ponds across the state. These fish are stocked for two main purposes: to restore native species to waters they formerly occupied and to enhance recreational fishing.

Built in 1980, the Salmon River Fish Hatchery specializes in raising chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, and brown trout. The Hatchery was constructed to revive and enhance the Great Lakes fishery and now provides most of the fish for the multi-million-dollar Lake Ontario salmonid fishery. Each year this hatchery stocks over 1.4 million Chinook salmon fingerlings (young fish 3-5 inches long), 155,000 coho fall fingerlings (3-5 inches), 90,000 coho salmon yearlings (a fish between one and two years old), and 750,000 steelhead yearlings.

Located in Altmar, NY, the Salmon River Fish Hatchery supplies fish for more than 100 public waters including Lake Ontario. Each year, the hatchery stocks approximately 3.5 million trout and salmon, and helps with local warm water fish stockings. Most fish are stocked directly into the designated water from the truck. Occasionally boats or aircraft are used to stock fish at a specific offshore location.

Raising Fish in the Salmon River Hatchery

Fish raised at the Salmon River Hatchery come from a variety of sources. Steelhead, chinook salmon, and coho salmon all develop from eggs taken from wild broodstock that return to the hatchery to spawn. Brown trout raised here are transferred in as fingerlings from other DEC hatcheries.

Salmon River Raceways
Hatchery visitors can view concrete
raceways designed for raising larger fish

Salmon and steelhead eggs are placed in special incubators that are supplied with a constant flow of water. The water temperature is what determines the amount of time it takes for the eggs to develop. Shortly after the eggs hatch, the sac fry are transferred into rearing units.

At first, these tiny fry are nourished by the yolk sac that protrudes from their abdominal region. After most of the yolk sac has been absorbed, the fry are ready to feed and a dry starter diet is provided. Since dry diets are available in a variety of food sizes, the size can be increased accordingly as the fish continue to grow. The amount of food to be fed each day is also adjusted as necessary to assure optimum growth and development. To ensure the fish grow properly and stay healthy, routine samples of the fish are taken to assess rate of growth and overall condition. In addition, fish are monitored daily for any health problems that may occur.

Interestingly, water is a key component in raising fish. On average, the Salmon River Fish Hatchery uses a water flow of approximately 10,000 gallons per minute from wells and a local reservoir. Water temperatures range from 34 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit due to seasonal fluctuations.

What Can I See at the Hatchery?

Visitor Center lobby
Recently updated Visitor Center lobby

Various life stages of fish are present at the hatchery throughout the year.

Spawning process (where eggs are taken from mature female fish and fertilized by mature male fish):

  • Salmon: mid- through late October
  • Steelhead: late March through early April

Eggs hatch out into sac fry:

  • Salmon: late November
  • Steelhead: mid-May

Small fish live in the hatchery until they are transported for stocking:

  • Chinook salmon as fingerlings during their first spring (on average 5 months after hatching)
  • Coho salmon as yearlings during their second autumn (on average 15 months after hatching)
  • Steelhead as yearlings during their first spring (on average 12 months after hatching)

Accessible Features

International Symbol of Accessibility

Self-guided tours of this accessible facility are available to observe what happens inside a working fish hatchery. There are informational exhibits and mounted fish. Accessible bathrooms are available as well. For current information on the fish and the hatchery call 315-298-5051. There is designated accessible parking at the hatchery entrance.

Full listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations.

Hatchery Location

The Salmon River Fish Hatchery is located on County Route 22, one mile northeast of the Village of Altmar, Oswego County. The Hatchery is open to the public from April 1st (weather permitting - call the hatchery for the spring opening date) to November 30th, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm daily. Tours for organized groups may be arranged in advance by contacting the hatchery manager at 315-298-5051.

For more information on this and any of the other DEC hatcheries, you may contact the hatchery directly at 2133 County Route 22, Altmar, NY 13302, 315-298-5051 or contact any of the DEC's regional fisheries offices.