an 800 mile journey through eight dams and 6,500 feet in elevation gain, the
first batch of endangered Snake River sockeye salmon are arriving in Idaho’s
Stanley Basin, including four naturally produced fish and nine hatchery fish as
of August 9, according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game information.
226 of the Endangered Species Act-listed sockeye had passed Lower Granite Dam
as of August 7. Lower Granite is the last dam the fish hurdle on a journey that
will go another 400 miles beyond the dam into the Stanley Basin. Last year on
the same date, some 797 sockeye had passed the dam and the 10-year average is
on historical passage timing, IDFG’s Russ Kiefer said at the August 9
interagency Technical Management Team meeting that Idaho is “pretty confident
that all sockeye have passed Lower Granite Dam and more fish have moved up into
the basin and that’s good news.”
are expecting about 150 fish total to move into the Stanley Basin this year,
about 95 percent of the run has passed through Lower Granite by early August,”
Eagle Hatchery Manager Dan Baker said.
recent sockeye runs are tiny compared with other salmon runs, they’re a vast
improvement over the 1990s. When Idaho sockeye were listed in 1991 under the
federal ESA, only four adult sockeye returned to the Stanley Basin. The
combined annual returns from 1991-99 was 23 fish, including two years when no
sockeye returned to Idaho, IDFG says.
River sockeye took another big hit in 2015 when low water and high temperatures
stopped most from passing Lower Granite Dam, sparking a rescue trap and haul
operation at the dam by IDFG and the Nez Perce Tribe.
more than 500,000 sockeye had passed Bonneville Dam in 2015, and some 4,000 of
those were destined for the Snake River’s Sawtooth Basin, less than 100 fish
made the long journey. Some 56 adults were trapped in the Sawtooth Basin and 35
were trapped at Lower Granite and hauled to Eagle, Idaho.
CBB, December 4, 2016, “Post-Mortem 2015 Snake River Sockeye Run; 90 Percent Of
Fish Dead Before Reaching Ice Harbor Dam,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435642.aspx)
it’s been a dismal year for sockeye in the entire Columbia River Basin.
Although the preseason forecasted run was 198,500 with 1,400 headed to the
Snake River, poor passage numbers at Bonneville Dam resulted in a downgrade by
the U.S. v Oregon Technical Management Team to 88,200 fish as measured at the
river’s mouth, with just 401 heading to the Snake River.
count of sockeye at Bonneville Dam as of August 7 was 87,584, but the daily
passage is falling quickly, with 10 to 20 fish passing the dam each day this
week. Last year on the same date, 342,156 sockeye had passed and the 10-year
average is 315,442.
of the sockeye that pass Bonneville will head into the upper Columbia River,
including into British Columbia via the Okanagan River. Just 42,044 of the fish
have passed Wells Dam as of August 7. Some 214,671 had passed on the same date
last year and the 10-year average is 205,879.
to the Okanagan Nation Alliance in British Columbia, the below average number
of sockeye expected to return to the Okanagan Basin’s Osoyoos and Skaha lakes
means that this year “only a small food fishery will be in place” (https://www.syilx.org/information-bulletin-continuing-to-make-their-way-home-information-on-2017-return-of-sockeye-salmon/).
addition, due to the expected poor return, the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans closed recreational fishing in Osoyoos Lake, saying that it wouldn’t
open fishing unless at least 80,000 fish had passed Wells Dam, about twice the
80 percent of the sockeye entering the Columbia River are of Okanagan stock, according
to Okanagan Nation Alliance fisheries biologist, Richard Bussanich.
poor run is not unique to the Columbia, Snake and Okanagan rivers. Lower than
expected returns are taking place Pacific-wide from California up to the Skeena
and Nass rivers in Northern BC, according to Bussanich. He pointed to warmer
than normal water off the West Coast over the past few years that is “not
just have to wait for the next salmon-friendly cycle which is hopefully sooner,
but maybe 2021-22,” he said.
Idaho, federal and state agencies have a three-prong strategy to recover Snake
River sockeye, IDFG says.
returning from the ocean are collected annually in the Stanley Basin at Redfish
Lake Creek and the nearby Sawtooth Fish Hatchery.
of those returning adults are spawned in the hatchery, and others released to
spawn naturally in Redfish Lake.
also raises and maintains a “captive broodstock” of sockeye that are spawned to
augment the sockeye returning from ocean. Those three sources provided about
740,000 young sockeye that were released, or naturally migrated from Redfish
Lake, during spring.
July 28, 2017, “2017 Snake River Sockeye Return To Lower Snake Dams Nearly
Complete, Passage Numbers Low,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439346.aspx
CBB, July 21, 2017, “Summer Chinook, Sockeye Runs Downgraded; Treaty Commercial
Fishery Extended,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439313.aspx
July 14, 2017, “Harvest Managers Approve More Tribal Fishing, Concerns
Expressed Over Low Sockeye, Summer Steelhead,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439267.aspx