Salmon Return Looks Promising,
by Emily Jones
First two sockeye of 2020 arrive at Redfish Lake Creek
After the first sockeye salmon of the year returned to Redfish Lake Creek near Stanley last Friday and a second followed close behind on Aug. 2, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is hopeful that Idaho will see a significantly larger sockeye return this year compared to 2019.
As of Sunday, over 400 sockeye had crossed Washington’s Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River, the last major obstacle before the fish enter Idaho.
"This year’s return over the dam is already the highest since 2016, when 816 fish were counted," a Friday press release from Fish and Game stated.
Last year, only 17 sockeye were able to migrate from the Pacific Ocean to the Sawtooth Basin—the lowest count in over a decade. In 2018, 113 fish made the journey.
After Lower Granite Dam, sockeye still have a way to go before reaching the Sawtooth Basin, Fish and Game says. There, they’ll be captured and transported to the Eagle Hatchery, where—based on genetic analysis—some fish will join the captive broodstock at the hatchery and the rest will be released in Redfish Lake to spawn naturally.
Sockeye face daunting challenges during their 900-mile migration through the Columbia, Snake and Salmon Rivers, according to Fish and Game, including "crossing eight dams and climbing 6,500 feet in elevation." The fish typically spend two years in the ocean before reentering freshwater, the agency stated.
In 1991, when Idaho sockeye were listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, Fish and Game saw only four adults return to the Sawtooth Basin. Since 2010, however, numbers have improved. The Sawtooth Basin averaged 558 fish over the past 10 years, with returns ranging from 17 in 2019 to 1,579 in 2014, the agency said.
Count the Fish, 1977-2014, Salmon Recovery Effortsby GAO
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