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For the week of September 6 through 12, 2000

Chinook return is best in years

70 redds sighted so far


"It’s great to see this many fish in the river. The chance to see these fish building redds and going through their spawning rituals should not be missed."

Lisa Stoeffler, Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) recreation program manager


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The Sawtooth National Forest is reporting one of the best Chinook salmon return migrations in recent history.

Yesterday, preliminary reports indicated that 70 Chinook salmon spawning beds, called redds, had been established in the upper Salmon River, Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) recreation program manager Lisa Stoeffler said in an interview. Last year, by comparison, 43 were established, she said.

And there are many more fish waiting to spawn, she added.

According to an SNRA press release, "lots of salmon" are building redds and are holding in deeper pools—an activity that’s common before spawning occurs—on the upper Salmon, northeast of Stanley.

"It’s great to see this many fish in the river," Stoeffler said. "The chance to see these fish building redds and going through their spawning rituals should not be missed."

On Wednesday of last week, over 30 Chinook salmon were holding in the deeper sections of Torrey’s Hole, which is about halfway between Stanley and Clayton.

In all this year, 37,755 spring and summer Chinook crossed Lower Granite Dam—the last of eight dams plugging the Snake and Columbia rivers the fish must circumvent. Last year, by comparison, 5,562 crossed the dam.

The high number of spawning fish and the low water have prompted SNRA officials to close an additional section of the Salmon River to whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The new closure prohibits floating on the stretch of river just below Piece of Cake rapid through the already-established closure at Indian Riffles.

The SNRA annually implements measures to protect returning salmon from disturbance to increase their chances of spawning successfully. The measures include closures of historically important spawning areas such as Indian Riffles and Torrey’s Hole.

This year, returning fish are establishing many redds outside of the historic spawning areas, and low water in the river makes it difficult for boaters to navigate around the redds without disturbing the fish.

After examining the situation, SNRA officials determined the additional closure was necessary to give the fish the opportunity to spawn, the press release states.

"These remarkable fish have traveled 900 miles, all the way from the Pacific Ocean, to spawn in their native gravels, and the least we can do is give them some room when they arrive," SNRA deputy area ranger Becky Nourse said in the press release.

 

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