1660 Hatchery Rd
Arcata, CA 95521
(707) 822-0592


Mad River Hatchery is operated by the California Department of Fish & Game. It was built by the California Wildlife Conservation Board to enhance salmon and steelhead populations in the North Coast streams of California. Construction began in August of 1969 and was completed in February of 1971. Half of the $2.5 million construction cost was reimbursed with funds provided by the Federal Andronomous Fisheries. The Department pays operating costs primarily from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. The hatchery has six permanent employees.


Juvenile chinook salmon enter the ocean during their first year of life after spending only a few months in fresh water. After spending from 3 to 4 years in the ocean, they return to their river of origin to spawn and die. All Pacific salmon, both male and female, die after spawning. Steelhead and coho(silver salmon) spend at least one year in freshwater, before making the journey to the sea. Most return in their third or forth year to spawn. Steelhead do not necessarily die after spawning and some spawn a second or third time.


The hatchery rearing pond water system is a closed, or recirculating, type. It then flows into the filter ponds. The filters contain oyster shell and broken rock to help purify the water. After being filtered, the water is pumped through the aeration towers and back to the ponds where it passes through ultraviolet lights to further purify the water before entering the ponds. Under full operation, the hatchery will recirculate approximately 25 million gallons per day. Well water, because of it's clarity and even temperature, is used for egg incubation and the rearing of fish. The water for the adult holding ponds, gathering tank, and fish ladder is pumped from the lower end of the rearing ponds.


The fish are fed a special diet that comes in granulated sizes. Ingredients are: herring, cotton seed, wheat, kelp, tuna viscera, crab meal, and vitamin supplements. It is a nutritious, well-controlled salmon diet.


Approximate egg production per female:
Chinook salmon --- 3,500
Coho salmon ------- 2,500
Steelhead ----------- 4,000


The annual production of Mad River Hatchery is currently 250,000 steelhead yearlings, 64,000 catchable Rainbow trout and varying numbers of chinook smolts and yearlings and coho yearlings depending on the number of adults trapped the previous season. The salmon smolts are 3 to 4 inches long and the salmon and steelhead yearlings are 6 to 10 inches long when released.
The salmon and steelhead are released back into the Mad River and catchable Rainbows are planted in the spring and fall, into several lakes in the surrounding lakes.

Wilber Cartwright
Fish Hatchery Manager II