Idaho sockeye numbers cause for hope

Another good year for Idaho’s sockeye salmon?

Redfish Lake © Ken Cole

Redfish Lake © Ken Cole

134,000 164,000 sockeye have crossed Bonneville Dam which is more than 3 times the 10-year average. Most of those are heading to lakes in Washington State but a few are returning to lakes in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. During the last two years Idaho saw exceptionally high returns of sockeye in comparison to many of the previous years where only a handful of fish returned.

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Idaho Sockeye Returning at Record Numbers

As of 7/13/09 914 sockeye salmon have crossed Lower Granite Dam.

Sockeye Salmon in Sawtooth Hatchery trap 2008 © Ken Cole

Sockeye Salmon in Sawtooth Hatchery Trap 2008 © Ken Cole

Last year was a record for modern times when 909 Sockeye Salmon passed over Lower Granite Dam and 450 plus 650 returned to the Sawtooth Valley. This year there have been 914 so far and the run is not over. There was a year when only one male made the 900-mile journey. He was dubbed Lonesome Larry.  In 1990 there were none.

To put this year’s and last year’s returns into perspective I grabbed this from the IDFG Fact Sheet on Sockeye:

“Between 1991 and 1998, only 16 wild sockeye salmon returned to Idaho. All of these adults were incorporated into the captive breeding program and spawned at the Eagle Fish Hatchery.

The program releases eggs and fish back to the habitat in a variety of ways. Eyed-eggs are planted in egg boxes and placed in lakes in the fall, presmolts are released directly to lakes in the fall, smolts are released to outlet streams in the spring, and prespawn adults are released to lakes in the fall. A monitoring and evaluation effort is in place to document the success of the different reintroduction strategies.

Over the eight years between 1999 and 2007, 355 hatchery-produced adult, sockeye salmon returned to the Sawtooth Valley. For comparison, in the 14 years from 1985 through 1998, 77 natural-origin sockeye salmon returned to Idaho.”

Idaho Sockeye Numbers Beating Last Year’s Record
NW Fishletter

Sockeye numbers reach highest level in decades in Idaho’s Sawtooth country

This is very good news!! They were almost extinct 15 years ago.

Sockeye numbers reach highest level in decades. A total of 386 sockeye salmon had arrived in the Sawtooth Valley by Tuesday [August 19]. By JASON KAUFFMAN, Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer

Good news: Maybe a fine sockeye salmon year for Idaho

A record summer for returning sockeye. By Scott Learn. Newhouse News Service

“Sockeye salmon, an oceangoing species that starts and ends its life hundreds of river miles inland, are swimming up the Columbia River this summer in numbers unseen in five decades.”

First sockeye comes home to Idaho. By Rocky Barker – Idaho Statesman

Good news! Endangered sockeye salmon beat projections in Columbia

Endangered sockeye salmon beat projections in Columbia River. AP. Idaho Statesman.

After the collapse of the spring chinook salmon run into the Sacramento River this year, there was fear it would be general; but the sockeye salmon run bound for interior Oregon, Washington, and Idaho is 6 times that of last year.

There are numerous species of salmon and runs of those species.  In many years some do well and others not. In others almost all are up or down.