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From tank to freedom: Chapman Creek Hatchery ready for first Salmon Release Festival

The public is invited to help return the fish to their natural habitat on May 21 for the launch of the inaugural event.
Salmon swimming free copy
Volunteers of all ages helped release thousands of pink salmon into Chapman Creek in March 2022.

The many young coho and chinook fry of Chapman Creek Hatchery have spent most of their short lives being cared for at the facility. But now, they are preparing for their journey to continue the circle of life in the wild — and they need a few pairs of helping hands to get there.

On May 21, the hatchery is hosting the free Salmon Release Festival from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. While the hatchery has hosted releases before, the family-friendly inaugural festival “is something for the community” now that public gatherings have resumed, director Stephen Boale told Coast Reporter.

Members of shíshálh Nation will perform an opening ceremony and bless the salmon, and there will be a number of activities for all ages to participate in: a fly tying demonstration by the “Fish Whisperer," an archery demonstration and more. Other nature-focused groups, including the Streamkeepers, will join to share information with community members. 

Of course, the main event is the release of the salmon. In March, 25 children and more than 60 adults helped release 25,559 pink salmon fry/smolt. In 18 months, those fish will return to the creek to breed. Now, the Hatchery is preparing for more people to help release even more fish.

Boale said they have 70,000 chinook and nearly 30,000 coho ready to enter their natural environment. 

The fish know when it’s time to go, Boale said, and the coho will change direction to swim with the stream’s flow — downstream. The coho have spent their first year of life in a pond at the Hatchery, and are currently about five to six grams. The chinook were only ponded two months ago and are smaller at 1.5 grams. Unlike the coho who like to spend their first year “hanging out” in the Creek, as Boale said, chinook head straight for the ocean. 

The hatchery’s volunteers are expecting a couple hundred people to help carry the many buckets of fish to the creek for the release. 

“We’re going to do as many as the kids can do, and then the next day, we’ll do the rest ourselves,” Boale said. Everyone will have the opportunity to be part of the release.

Event details can be found at