There are few things as iconically Alaskan as participating in a salmon return, and if you’re in Ketchikan during the spring runs (June/July), you can see one close up.

Every spring the hatchery sends 700,000 king salmon smolt on the adventure of a lifetime. These small fish attempt to stay away from seals, sea lions, larger salmon, and sharks, with an average of just 10 percent returning 4-5 years later, streaming into Herring Cove to the hatchery.

Standing on the bridge at Herring Cove and seeing thousands of 20- and 30-lb king salmon returning to Whitman Lake Hatchery is a surreal wildlife experience that can’t be orchestrated by any zoo. The massive amount of fish attracts not just onlookers, but all sorts of animals who gather for the culinary event of the year. The smell of decaying salmon assaults your nose, while the screeching of thousands of seagulls, and the unique cawing of eagles rise over the sound of the water. Herds of seals flap around hunting, while bear walk around as if they own the place.

You need transportation to get to the Whitman Lake Hatchery, but it’s worth hiring a cab or going with a tour operator if you want to truly understand Alaskan salmon and the role hatcheries like Whitman play in the success of this salmon fishery.

Getting There

Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture
14 Borch St
Ketchikan, AK 99901
Driving Directions

Whitman Lake Hatchery

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