Two sockeye make it to Redfish
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
In the past week, two Sockeye Salmon made it back to the species
historic spawning grounds beneath the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains.
That means they negotiated over 900 miles of the Columbia, Snake and
Salmon rivers, eight dams and numerous natural perils along the way.
Since 1991, only 16 sockeye salmon have returned to Redfish Lake.
The first Chinook salmon have also begun to arrive and are beginning
the process of breeding. Currently, no Chinook nestscalled reddshave been
According to Sawtooth Hatchery manager Brent Snider, one of the newly
arrived sockeye showed up Thursday, and the second on Monday morning.
Both are hatchery raised fish that have only spent one year in the
ocean, and both are male. Snider pointed out that the more fish that
returnregardless of sexthe better the odds are of maintaining a healthy
genetic base for breading more of the fish in upcoming years.
The two fish are currently being held in a tank at the Sawtooth
Hatchery, near Redfish Lake, but will soon be transported to the Eagle Hatchery in Boise
where a captive breeding program has been going on since 1991, the year of the
Sockeyes endangered listing.
"These two fish are the progeny of fish that returned to Idaho in
1993. They headed out in May of 98," Snider said.
In the past six weeks, 22 sockeye were sighted passing Lower Granite
Damthe last of the eight dams the fish must circumvent on the Columbia and Snake
riverson their journeys to the lakes of Idaho.
According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Games anadromous
fisheries coordinator, Sharon Kiefer, it is believed that most, if not all, of the
returning sockeye are hatchery released fish that have only spent one year in the ocean.
Typically, Kiefer said, returning after only one year in the ocean is behavior exhibited
by hatchery-released fish.
"Were not sure if any adult sockeye (meaning wild sockeye)
have returned," she said.
Sockeye salmon once returned to the lakes of the Sawooth Valley by the
tens of thousands. Last year, three were sighted crossing Lower Granite Dam, and one of
the three made it back to Redfish Lake.
Keifer said it still doesnt appear that sockeye survival rates
are indicative of what is needed to sustain the fish.
"What we need are some wild fish to return for survival to really
work, but were not going to complain about a little improvement," she said.