Sockeye Swim into Redfish Lake near Stanleyby Shawn Raecke
Bellingham Herald, August 11, 2010
STANLEY - Sockeye salmon swam up Redfish Lake Creek Wednesday for the first time past a barrier erected in 1991 to capture the last of the species for captive breeding.
Federal and state officials celebrated the occasion as the removal of another obstacle for recovery of the endangered fish that once returned in the thousands. By 1992, only one sockeye, dubbed "Lonesome Larry" by then-Gov. Cecil Andrus, returned.
"Today is a day to celebrate yet another record setting run for the sockeye salmon to Redfish Lake," said Ed Schriever, chief of fisheries with the Idaho Fish and Game. "This magical but it isn't magic. One thing it isn't is luck. We're not here because we're lucky. We're here because the science is solid behind the program."
Fish and Game is allowing the sockeye to make the final leg of the trip without first collecting them and shipping them to Eagle because the hatcheries that have held the fish temporarily are filled up. Ideal conditions in the Pacific and improved migration conditions on the 900-mile route from the ocean to Redfish has produced a record return of the fish since four Snake River dams were erected in the 1960s and 1970s.
So far more than 2,100 sockeye have passed through Lower Granite Dam on the Snake west of Lewiston. About 640 of those fish have returned to the Sawtooth Valley so far this year.
"To see that first fish this year be released and go into the lake and to know that there are going to be several thousand to follow, that is really an exciting thing," said Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo. "I think the people of Idaho across the board want to protect this incredible fish and to make sure that recovery is real because this is truly a part of our heritage of Idaho."
"Watching these magnificent fish swim back to their homes for the first time in decades was stunning," said Greg Stahl, Assistant Policy Director of Idaho Rivers. "And second, it was refreshing to hear our senator acknowledge that fishing and conservation groups had a significant hand in making this day a reality."
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