Friday, October 26, 2012

Sockeye returns lowest since 2007

Hatchery: Numbers not ‘terrible’ for species

Express Staff Writer

A sockeye salmon is released into Redfish Lake in 2010.

Sockeye returns at Redfish Lake Creek and the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery south of Stanley are down significantly this year, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

A total of 243 anadromous sockeye were trapped at both locations this year, down sharply from last year’s 1,071. It is the smallest return since 2007, when only four sockeye returned to the Sawtooth Valley.

However, Eagle Fish Hatchery Manager Dan Baker said the low numbers are not a cause for panic over the state of the species.

“It’s not a terrible sign at all,” he said.

He said the low numbers are probably the result of low survival rates coming out of the Sawtooth Basin in 2010. Sockeye spend roughly two years in the ocean before swimming back to the lake to spawn, and a low smolt survival rate in 2010 would result in a low adult return in 2012.

Baker said the hatchery is still releasing a solid number of fish to spawn in Redfish Lake, and that smolt production is right on target.

Of the fish trapped, 173 were released into Redfish Lake along with 623 captive-reared adult fish. Seventy trapped fish were incorporated into captive broodstock at the Eagle Fish Hatchery.

Baker said that despite this year’s numbers, he expects sockeye returns to improve next year.

“It’s a little bit early, so it’s hard to say,” he said. “But [smolt] survival in 2011 was a lot higher, so I am expecting the numbers to bounce back.”


Bear River Dam blocked

The Idaho Department of Water Resources blocked a water right last week that would have allowed a new dam at Oneida Narrows on the Bear River near Preston, Idaho. The water right, sought by Twin Lakes Canal Co., would have been used to store irrigation water behind the new dam and to generate hydropower. Idaho Rivers United, a group dedicated to preserving waterways in Idaho, intervened in the case and argued that the water right would not be in the public interest. The group also argued that the right, if approved, would have undermined a multi-million-dollar restoration of the river that has occurred since 2002.

Kate Wutz:

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