Pillar Creek Hatchery showed off a new building at their annual open house on Saturday as they prepared to send the latest batch of salmon into Kodiak rivers.

The new building provides more office space, storage space, a workshop, and a two-bedroom and two-bathroom apartment for seasonal employees.

The new building is the latest in a string of improvements to the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association-run hatchery that has included a roof over some of the fish-containing raceways and a new oxygen generator and wet lab building.

The hatchery staff will hopefully only be spending a few more weeks in their small office in a building that also houses the incubation area where the eggs are kept.

The staff is awaiting a final inspection before they can move in.

Roofing over the rest of the raceways is the next item on the list of improvements.

"It provides a better working environment for our staff," said fish culturist Hawk Turman during a tour on Saturday. Additionally, "when the fish are young, the feed is small and wind and rain beats the feed off the surface of the water. The roof turns every feeding day into an eating day."

In just a couple weeks, the fish that are currently darting around inside long metal raceways will be taken to rivers around Kodiak.

Between 320,000 and 330,000 young Chinook salmon will be deposited in Monashka Creek, Salonie Creek, American River and Olds River, Turman said, the highest ever so far.

The hatchery will also be taking between 70,000 and 80,000 sockeye salmon to Telrod Cove on the west side of Kodiak Island, 100,000 to Ouzinkie and additional salmon to Anton Larsen Bay.

With the past winter's warm weather, the fish in the raceways have grown quicker than they regularly do, Turman said.

"Fish are cold-blooded, so when you get them in a warmer environment, they accelerate," Turman said. "Because of weight limits for our stocking, at least for sockeye going on the plane, that means more trips."

About 220 pounds of fish can be taken per flight, Turman said. A good weight for stocking the fish is about 10 grams. This year's fish are around 12.

"So that's going to take us, instead of 65 flights, closer to 80 flights just to get the fish across," Turman said.

That costs more, but Turman said the hatchery management has been on the ball.

"It's all planned," Turman said.

The low snow year also will also likely result in warmer water for the next batch of fish.

"At this point in the game, it's kind of a nagging concern in the back of our minds just knowing that the summer probably is going to be warm," Turman said. "Not having the snowpack will affect our water temperatures just because we'll be more dependent on rainfall."

Julie Herrmann is a staff reporter at the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at 486-3227 ext. 627.

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