William Jack Hernandez Fish Hatchery

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If you want to marvel at the sight of thousands of fish schooling in gigantic tanks, take the self-guided tour inside the state fish hatchery on the banks of Ship Creek east of downtown. The museum-quality observation deck offers intimate views of a complex operation that produces up to six million sport fish each year.

The full hatchery experience begins outdoors, where a nature walk follows Ship Creek to the facility where returning mature chinook and coho salmon are collected for their eggs. From June to September, these fish may be seen swirling in the clear waters near a fish ladder. During cold season, these brood fish tanks are silent. But you can still view the falls gushing over the old Ship Creek dam. Watch for spectacular ice build-up during cold snaps.

Round and round they go

The most startling may be the massive 26-foot-diameter production tanks, each holding 23,000 gallons of water with space for up to 30,000 fish. Equally large tanks house the hatchery’s brood stock of rainbow trout and Arctic char.

Watch the blue-and-gray-backed fish swim in the classic schooling behavior. They look like an armada of zeppelins as they swirl in an ever-tightening circle.

The video screens spaced along the walk each tell a unique chapter of the hatchery story in three- to seven-minute segments. Some show fish underwater. Combined with info displays, the experience is like visiting an aquarium inside a natural history museum.

The pleasant indoor walk (about 150 yards) features:

  1. Big plate glass windows overlooking ongoing operations as hatchery staff tend to millions of fish bound for Southcentral Alaska lakes and streams
  2. Eight video screens showing short documentaries about the hatchery and its fish
  3. Detailed info displays
  4. Gobs of salmon-inspired art

Fun facts:

  1. There might be up to four million eggs in those incubation trays.
  2. The rearing and production tanks have space for six million fish including fingerlings (1" to 2"), smolts (3" to 5") and catchables (7" to 12").
  3. Periodically between May to October, staff will pump fish into tanks and then release them into lakes and streams throughout the region. Some stocking runs to remote sites can take 24 hours.
  4. Each of the 32 ten-foot-diameter rearing tanks might hold up to 150,000 freshly hatched fish at a time.
  5. The hatchery is named for Jack “Bill” Hernandez, a former World War II veteran (and POW held three years by Japanese forces) who spent 26 years establishing and then overseeing hatchery operations for the military and the State of Alaska. He died in 2003.

More details on the fish in the hatchery:

Chinook salmon
Coho salmon
Rainbow trout
Arctic Char

Getting There

941 N. Reeve Blvd
Anchorage, AK 99501

The William Jack Hernandez hatchery is located on the banks of Ship Creek, east of the city’s industrial zone, at the corner of Reeve Boulevard and Post Road near the Post Road gate into Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The easiest route: Take the Glenn Highway east from downtown and turn north (left if facing the mountains) onto Reeve Boulevard. The hatchery is about 9/10ths of a mile down the hill, on the right just after the Ship Creek bridge.

Enter the hatchery building on the east end if possible, where the dark and mysterious incubation rooms are located. (The west end is fine if the east door is locked.) From either entrance, go up the stairs to a visitor corridor that runs the length of the building with glass windows looking down on 100 different rearing and production tanks in different bays.

Driving Directions

Prices & Dates

Open to the public 8 AM to 4 PM

William Jack Hernandez Fish Hatchery

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