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Sockeye Continue to Arrive in Stanley Area

by Jason Kauffman
Idaho Mountain Express, August 26, 2008

A total of 507 red fish have arrived in the Sawtooth Valley so far

Although the numbers of sockeye salmon arriving in the Sawtooth Valley appear to be slowing, enough have showed up to push the year's run past the 500 mark, a remarkable development for a fish some had written off in recent years.

Altogether, a total of 507 sockeye had arrived at fish traps near the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery near Redfish Lake by Monday morning, information provided by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game indicates. That's nearly double the amount of the next highest run in recent decades, when 257 of the famous red fish made their way back to the Sawtooth Valley in 2000.

In recent years, returns of sockeye have varied wildly in the upper Salmon River. Anadromous fish must cross eight major dams on the Columbia River and lower Snake River before they reach Idaho.

Although this summer's run is indeed a remarkable improvement above mostly dismal single-digit or nonexistent sockeye returns to Redfish Lake during the past several decades, the Sawtooth Valley sockeye population is far from recovered, fisheries officials have said. In the mid-1950s, thousands of the fish returned to spawn in Redfish, Pettit, Alturas and other lakes located in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains.

This year's positive sockeye returns have been attributed to good smolt production four years ago, good out-migration conditions in the rivers and excellent ocean conditions.

Redfish Lake sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in November 1991. They were the first Idaho salmon to be listed on the ESA. Redfish Lake sockeye are unique in that they travel to the highest elevation, over 6,500-feet, run the longest distance, about 900 miles, and travel the furthest south of any North American sockeye population.

This year's returns are the result of 180,000 smolts that were released and migrated to the ocean in 2006.

Jason Kauffman
Sockeye Continue to Arrive in Stanley Area
Idaho Mountain Express, August 26, 2008

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