Returning Chinook Salmon
by Greg Moore
Department of Fish and Game releases 500 sockeye into Redfish Lake
A final day of counting by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Monday, Sept. 10, tallied a total of 1,581 Chinook salmon completing the 900-mile trip from the Pacific Ocean to the upper Salmon River this year. Last year only 761 Chinook salmon returned, but biologists say this year's number is about normal.
Only four sockeye salmon returned to the upper Salmon, three of them to the Sawtooth Hatchery trap near Stanley and one to Redfish Lake Creek.
The returning numbers of both species are only a tiny fraction of the 80,000 sockeye and 1.2 million Chinook smolts that head downstream in the spring.
The Department of Fish and Game breeds fewer sockeye than Chinook since the sockeye breeding program is considered a genetic banking endeavor pending improved environmental conditions rather than an immediate recovery effort.
Of the returning Chinook, 296 are considered adults, that is, fish that are at least four years old. The others are "jacks" three-year-old male fish that have spent only one year in the ocean. Fish biologists say that's a good sign that a healthy number of adult fish may return next year.
Lars Alsager, fish culturist at the Sawtooth Hatchery, said that 206 of the returning Chinook were released into the Salmon River to spawn upstream from the hatchery. The others will be held at the hatchery to spawn there. He said approximately 100 pair have been counted spawning naturally between the Yankee Fork and the Salmon headwaters.
All four of the returning sockeye have been transferred to the Eagle Hatchery where they will be spawned. Most of the hatched fish will be released in Redfish, Petit or Alturas lakes.
"We think there are no truly wild sockeye left in the system," said Dan Baker, manager of the Eagle Hatchery.
During the past week, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game released 500 adult sockeye into Redfish Lake to spawn there.
Both the sockeye and Chinook eggs will hatch this winter. The young sockeye will spend about a year and a half in the lake and the young Chinook will spend the same time in the river before they head downstream during runoff in the spring of 2009.
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