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Ecology and salmon related articles

First Sockeye Returns
to Stanley Basin

by Staff
Challis Messenger, August 11, 2020

First two sockeye of 2020 arrive at Redfish Lake Creek

An employee at the Eagle Fish Hatchery collects a genetic sample from the first sockeye salmon that returned to the Stanley Basin a couple of weeks ago. The first two sockeye of 2020 have returned to Redfish Lake Creek, according to Brian Pearson with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The first sockeye, a naturally produced female, returned to the trap on Redfish Lake Creek on July 31. The second fish arrived Aug. 2. Through Aug. 2, a total of 412 sockeye had crossed Lower Granite Dam. That number "signals a substantially larger return to Idaho than last year," Pearson said, and is already the highest since 2016 when 816 fish were counted at the dam.

The 2020 sockeye return is a bit later than usual, Pearson said. Fish managers expect more fish to cross Lower Granite this month. It's the last dam fish cross before reaching Idaho. But fish still have a long way to go before reaching the Sawtooth Basin.

Fish that arrive in the Sawtooth Basin are trapped and taken to the Eagle Hatchery for a genetic analysis. Some of the fish end up being incorporated into the hatchery's captive broodstock. The others are released to Redfish Lake in mid-September to spawn naturally.

"Based on historical conversion rates between Lower Granite and the Sawtooth Basin, if no more fish crossed the dam, about 124 to 165 sockeye would return to the basin this year and likely surpass the last two year's returns," he said. Fisheries managers expected an increase in returns this year because of relatively cool water temperatures that benefit migrating fish and past improvements to the way young sockeye were released into the Stanley Basin to migrate to the ocean.

After a low survival rate for sockeye released from hard water at the Springfield Hatchery in 2017 because the fish couldn't acclimate to the soft water in Redfish Lake Creek, biologists now acclimate young sockeye at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery, which has water "that provides a happy medium," he said.

Sockeye salmon typically spend two years in the ocean before making the return journey, so this is the first year the fish released using the new methodology are returning as adults. Biologists were hopeful they would see a larger adult return beginning this year because of the changes, Pearson said.

Sockeye returning to the Sawtooth Basin from the Pacific complete a 900-mile migration through the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers, where they must cross eight dams and climb 6,500 feet in elevation.

Related Pages:
Count the Fish, 1977-2014, Salmon Recovery Effortsby GAO

First Sockeye Returns to Stanley Basin
Challis Messenger, August 11, 2020

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