their upper Columbia River cousins, Snake River sockeye salmon are setting
modern-day records for numbers of returning spawners.
a total of 2,751 sockeye salmon have been climbing over the lower Snake River’s
Lower Granite Dam this year, which is the eighth and final hydro project the
fish must hurdle on their 900-mile journey up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon
rivers. The 2014 return earlier in August eclipsed what had been the modern-day
record annual count, 2,201 in 2010. That record goes back to 1975, the year
construction of Lower Granite was completed.
run is well past its peak, with only 10 sockeye passing Lower Granite during
the week ending Wednesday.
fish that cleared southeast Washington’s Lower Granite Dam still had about 400
miles to swim upriver to reach central Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley. The fish
originated there, having either been released as smolts or produced by natural
spawners in the basin’s Redfish Lake.
has been a very good year for Columbia-Snake river sockeye. A record total of
614,192 fish had been counted at the lower Columbia’s Bonneville Dam through
Wednesday. The previous high count for the entire season (dating back to 1938)
was 515,673 in 2012.
greater portion of the run is headed toward the Okanogan River basin, which
stretches down from British Columbia into central Washington. A total of
490,609 sockeye had been counted this year through Monday at Wells Dam. Wells,
located at Columbia river mile 515, is the ninth major hydro project the fish
pass on their spawning journey and the last before turning into the Okanogan.
2014 dam count at the mid-Columbia’s Priest Rapids Dam was 608,122 sockeye
through Tuesday. Priest Rapids is the first hydro project upstream of the
Columbia’s confluence with the Snake River.
total of 1,313 Snake River sockeye have made their way up that home stretch to
the Sawtooth Valley through Wednesday, a number that is approaching the 2010
record total of 1,355 for the season.
2014 total represents fish trapped and sampled, for the most part, on Redfish
Lake Creek. A portion of those fish have ultimately been passed through to
continue their journey toward the lake. Others have been transported to the
IDFG’s Eagle Hatchery near Boise, where they will be held until mid-month. A
portion of those fish will be spawned at Eagle to perpetuate the hatchery
program whole some will be returned to central Idaho for release into Redfish
Lake so that they can spawn naturally. Spawning typically takes place in
total of 33 sockeye were trapped Wednesday in the Sawtooth Valley.
trapping activity this year appears to have peaked with a total of 87 corralled
on Aug. 13. During the week ending Sept. 2, daily counts ranged from 12 to 58.
over one-third of the fish returning to central Idaho’s high country this year
are unmarked, meaning they are the product of adult spawners returned to
Redfish Lake or of so-called “residual” sockeye that have spent their entire
lifecyle in freshwater rather than swimming to and maturing in the Pacific
sockeye spawners in the lake include “anadromous” fish that matured in the
ocean and returned, and hatchery-reared broodstock.
returning sockeye are in large part due to Snake River Sockeye Salmon Captive
Broodstock Program, which was begun early in 1991 to preserve the genetic stock
of a severely declined species that was on the brink of extinction. The species
was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act later that year.
program headed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is gaining some ground.
This year’s spawner return is the sixth out of the past seven years of more
than 757. From 1975 through 2006 only 10 counts exceeded 100.
1991 and 1998, only 16 wild sockeye returned to Idaho.
Snake River sockeye program is largely paid for by the Bonneville Power
Administration as part of its obligation to mitigate the impact of hydropower
dams on salmon and steelhead. BPA markets power generated Federal Columbia
River Power System and pays for the fish mitigation with revenues from
in the restoration include NOAA Fisheries Service, which shares captive
broodstock fish culture responsibilities at two facilities located in
Washington state, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which
provides smolt rearing for the program. Also, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes
conducts habitat investigations geared toward determining the ability of
nursery lakes to receive eggs and fish from the program and conducts and
evaluates lake fertilization.
University of Idaho provides genetic support for the program.