After spawning out the male and female adult chinook and chum at Grovers Creek Hatchery this fall, the Suquamish Tribal staff has more carcasses than it knows what to do with. So the public takes it off their hands – for a buck a fish.
“It helps us get rid of the fish, which we have no use for after we’ve spawned them,” said Mike Huff, the tribe’s Grovers Creek Hatchery manager. “This way the fish aren’t wasted. And those that aren’t purchased, we take them to a local farmer who uses them as compost.”
Some hatcheries will bury the carcasses, or put them upstream to provide nutrients to the habitat, but Grovers doesn’t have that capacity, Huff said.
People have been flocking the hatchery for longer than Huff can remember to get the dollar deal, coolers in hand. It’s not unusual for a family to load up the backseat with coolers overflowing with the spawned fish. Recently, a family of six purchased about 50 fish to take home. Another couple filled two coolers full to take home and freeze and eat throughout the year.
About 4,000 chinook came back to the hatchery in the early fall and about 6,000 chum are expected to return in this month. Rarely are the fish thrown away as the tribe has a good recycling program in place, Huff said.
The money made from all the fish goes in to a “carcass account,” Huff said – for hatchery supplies as well as lunch for all the volunteers, such as the Kitsap Poggie Club members, and staff, who spend their fall mornings catching the wily fish to spawn.