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Alaska’s State-Managed Hatcheries

Supporting and sustaining sport fishing in Southcentral and the Interior


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The William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery is located in Alaska and raises fish to stock Southcentral Alaska water bodies in support of sport fishing activities.

Image courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division


Of the twenty-eight hatcheries operating in Alaska, two are operated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery in Fairbanks and the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage.

In Anchorage, the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery opened in June of 2011. The hatchery uses a fully enclosed, recirculating aquaculture system for the production of Chinook and coho salmon, rainbow trout, and Arctic char. The William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery is approximately 600 feet by 200 feet and has almost 3 acres of covered office, shop, and rearing space. It has more than 100 rearing tanks providing space for the production of more than 6 million sport fish each year, which are released throughout Southcentral Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, “Sport fishing activity supported through these fish releases accounts for over $20 million a year in economic impact on local communities.”


Several species of fish are raised at the hatchery, including salmon, trout, and char.

Images courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division


The fish reared at the hatchery are commonly pumped from one tank to another to avoid putting undo stress on the fish or risking injury to hatchery staff. At approximately the same time that Alaska’s tourism season is in full swing (mid-May to early October), tanker trucks are loaded with fish that are transported to release sites throughout Southcentral Alaska. Called “stocking runs,” this process can take more than twenty-four hours to complete.

The Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery in Fairbanks utilizes recirculating systems to raise rainbow trout, coho and Chinook salmon, and Arctic char. The Arctic char and rainbow trout are captive broodstock, meaning that they are not harvested from the wild. Fish from this hatchery provide or supplement fishing opportunities in 137 landlocked lakes within the Fairbanks, Nenana, Delta, and Glennallen areas. The different species are brought into the hatchery and released into the wild at different times throughout the year, as appropriate for each fish. For example, Arctic char eggs are taken in November, reared for eighteen months, and then released at a catchable size, while coho eggs are taken in October and released nine months later as fingerlings.


David Starzynski stocks Long Lake, which is near Chickaloon, with fish.

Image courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division


Image courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division

Megan Davis stocks Deception Creek in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley with chinook salmon smolt.

The majority of Alaska’s hatcheries release young salmon to comingle with slightly-more-wild Alaska salmon in the Pacific Ocean; however, the state-managed hatcheries provide fish stock more specifically for sport fishing opportunities. The two hatcheries work together, with the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery providing fish primarily for Interior Alaska and the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery providing fish primarily for Southcentral in addition to providing Arctic char and rainbow trout eggs for the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery.

To this end, the state publishes a Statewide Stocking Plan for Sport Fish, a five-year plan most recently updated in January. It states, “In general, stocking sites have been selected to maximize the benefits to sport anglers. Resident species are usually stocked in landlocked lakes near population centers. Anadromous species are usually stocked in sites with accessible terminal beach, marine, and stream appropriate for sport fishing. Specific stocking sites are intended to (1) increase the numbers of fish caught by anglers beyond historic levels or (2) establish a new fishery.”

For those interested in state-managed hatchery operations, the visitor corridor of the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and tours can be arranged for large groups. Information about the hatcheries and state stocking program are available online (adfg.alaska.gov).


This article first appeared in the November 2017 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly.

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