First Sockeye Begin to Arriveby Jason Kauffman
Idaho Mountain Express, July 30, 2009
Fisheries officials believe returns might be good this year
The first sockeye salmon of the year have begun to arrive home to their high mountain birthplace in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains.
As of Wednesday evening, 30 of the bright red fish had arrived at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery south of Stanley. The first two sockeye of the summer arrived last week.
Fisheries officials believe quite a few more sockeye will eventually arrive in the Sawtooth Valley when the season finally wraps up in early fall. So far, a total of 1,175 sockeye have been counted crossing Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington, the last man-made structure the ocean-going fish must pass on their way back to Idaho.
If a high percentage of the famous red fish ultimately make their way back to the Redfish Lake area as fisheries biologists hope and expect they will, it would mark the second year in a row of positive returns of Idaho's most imperiled species of anadromous fish. In all, 636 sockeye returned to the Sawtooth Valley last summer, far more than the previous high of 257 that came back in 2000, which was the next highest return since 1985. And it's far more than the four sockeye that came back in 2007.
Redfish Lake sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in November 1991. Historically, up to 30,000 sockeye spawned in the Sawtooth Valley's Alturas, Pettit, Yellowbelly, Redfish and Stanley lakes, fisheries biologists say.
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