Whitman Lake Hatchery:
hitman Lake Hatchery was SSRAA’s first facility, the first substantive result of the regional associations new program (see “In The Beginning” under “About”). The hatchery has been operational since 1978. Today the programs at Neets Bay and Whitman Lake are so intertwined that it is often easier to consider them as one facility. Whitman was designed as a “central incubation facility”, a site where a large number of fish are incubated and reared for release at remote sites away from the facility. The hatchery is located behind Herring Cove in George Inlet, approximately 15 kilometers south of Ketchikan. To find Whitman Lake Hatchery, drive south from Ketchikan and turn left where the pavement ends.
Whitman is approved for the production of chinook, coho, and chum salmon. The hatchery is critical to SSRAA’s programs as adult fish returning to the site are the source for chinook (Chickamin River) and fall coho (Chickamin) eggs. Sufficient chinook and coho are annually released at the site so that adult returns meet broodstock needs. Some of the fertilized eggs and a number of smolt produced in Whitman Lake raceways are sent elsewhere for incubation, rearing and release.
There are few naturally produced chinook in the immediate Ketchikan area. Chinook salmon released at Whitman Lake drive Ketchikan’s most popular and productive chinook sport fishery at Mountain Point where the fish congregate before entering hatchery raceways. Several thousand fish are caught annually in this “urban” sport fishery. The State of Alaska is a partner providing some of the funds necessary in the production of these fish. Fall coho returning to Whitman are also important to Ketchikan sport harvesters, thought much larger numbers of coho returning through Behm Canal to Neets Bay provide most of the local harvest.
The SSRAA chum program operates in the opposite direction; broodstock returns to Neets Bay and eggs are sent from Neets to Whitman for incubation. As the chum fry emerge they are moved to remote sites for saltwater rearing and release. Though more than 40 million chum eggs pass through Whitman every year, chums are not released at the site.
SSRAA’s remote release sites at Kendrick Bay, Nakat Inlet and Anita Bay are all supported by Whitman Lake Staff. The Whitman staff is also called on to assist the Ketchikan Office with one-of-a-kind projects such as sockeye restoration at McDonald Lake or Snow Pass Coho Harvest at Neck Lake. Through the years SSRAA’s most senior staff members have gravitated to Whitman, in large part because it is on the road system with access to public schools and other amenities. These people have been responsible for a number of program innovations as well as providing a testing ground for new ideas from elsewhere.
In addition to fish culture, SSRAA’s maintenance headquarters is at Whitman Lake. All of SSRAA’s projects pass through Whitman, from planning to the fabrication involved with fish culture equipment.