Snake River Sockeye
by Idaho Fish & Game
Fish and Game's effort to save Snake River sockeye salmon from extinction is proving to be a success, as the number of sockeye returning to Idaho has set a new modern day record.
On Sept. 11, the number of sockeye trapped at Redfish Lake surpassed the record of 1,381 trapped in 1,956. This is the second milestone achieved by the 2014 return. On Sept. 6, the return surpassed the record of 1,355 fish returning in 2010 (the highest return since the construction of Lower Granite Dam). As of Sunday, Sept. 21, Fish and Game has trapped 1,457 sockeye, and they may continue to trickle in as autumn begins.
Snake River Sockeye were literally on the brink of extinction 20 years ago. In 1991, Snake River Sockeye Salmon were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. From 1988 to 1999, the number of sockeye returning to the Sawtooth Valley was in the single digits. During nine of those 11 years, the number was zero or one, including 1992, when then-Governor Cecil Andrus named "Lonesome Larry," a single male sockeye that was trapped on Redfish Lake Creek.
It was during this time that Idaho Fish and Game joined a multi-agency and tribal effort to save Snake River Sockeye from extinction. This year's record return is due in large part to a captive brood stock program begun in 1991 that is managed by Idaho Fish and Game and largely financed by Bonneville Power Administration. The program has kept the fish's genetics intact while numbers of returning sockeye have slowly increased.
The program produces eggs and juvenile fish (smolts) which are reintroduced to their habitat in the Sawtooth Mountains in a variety of ways. The number of smolts will increase dramatically with the addition of the Springfield Fish Hatchery near American Falls. By 2017, Fish and Game expects to release 1 million sockeye smolts.
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