Published on December 19, 2023

Oswego County’s Secret to the Booming Fishing Industry: The Salmon River Fish Hatchery

By Liam Shiel

As the salmon run wraps up here in the northeast, I thought I’d let you in on the secret that is the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Oswego County’s Altmar, NY.

My name is Liam and I’m a freshman at Oswego High School. I recently went on a trip to the Salmon River Fish Hatchery for its annual open house. While I was there, I learned a lot about salmon fishing and the tedious processes that the hatchery executes. If you aren’t really an outdoors type of person, or just don’t know about fishing, you may have some questions. So, today I will attempt to answer any questions you may have and share with you my experience at the hatchery.

What is a fish hatchery?

Going into the day, I had no idea what a hatchery even was. I found out that a fish hatchery is where fish are captively bred, raised and then released to fuel commercial and/or local fishing. Here in Oswego County, the Salmon River Fish Hatchery is for breeds of salmon; fish that are mostly native to the Pacific Ocean, but can thrive here, in Lake Ontario, and breeds of trout. Specifically, Coho and Chinook Salmon, steelhead and brown trout.


When I found out exactly what a fish hatchery was, I asked the question, “Why?” Well, hatcheries do this to control the population of the fish and to prevent overfishing. You may think the population of these specific fish breeds doesn’t really matter. But considering how important they are to the fishing industry, and, on top of that, how important the fishing industry is to Oswego County’s economy, the Salmon River Fish Hatchery has an incredibly important and impactful role in the county as a whole.

The process of breeding, hatching and raising:

I learned that the process begins in the early fall, when fish are caught, sorted and transported to tanks in the hatchery. Salmon are caught in Lake Ontario, while trout are caught in either Lake Ontario or Lake Erie. Around the month of September, eggs are taken from the females, cleaned using iodine, fertilized by male sperm and incubated in specially kept tanks in the hatchery. The conditions such as pH and temperature of the incubated tanks are crucial. Unfortunately, most females have to be euthanized to be worked with. After this tedious process, fish and eggs have to be counted and weighed. Once hatched and sorted, fish are carefully kept and raised over the winter. Towards the spring, when environmental conditions allow, these now full-grown fish are released. This process repeats itself next fall.

Pictured is a truck used to transport fish.
Salmon River Fish Hatchery
Picture shows the start tank room where newborn fish are counted, weighed and cared for.

My experience:

All in all, I strongly recommend checking out the Salmon River Fish Hatchery if you are at all interested in fishing. The open house offered an informational yet interesting experience and tour, with complimentary food afterwards. Even being someone who isn’t interested in fishing, I learned a lot and made some really cool memories.

Salmon River Fish Hatchery outdoor tanks
Pictured are the outdoor tanks where bigger fish are kept.

The Salmon River Fish Hatchery is located at 2133 Co. Rte. 22 Altmar, NY 13302. The hatchery is open to the public from April 1 to Nov. 30, weather permitting. For more information, contact the hatchery by calling 315-298-5051.