Letters from the West

First sockeye returns to Redfish Creek with many more expected

The first sockeye of the season made the 900-mile trip from the Pacific to Redfish Lake Creek near Stanley Tuesday and if conditions remain the same more should be on its tail.

You remember last year when most of the run of the endangered Snake River sockeye died in the hot waters of the Columbia and lower Snake rivers before they ever made it back to Idaho. But its a lot cooler this year and Idaho Fish and Game biologists predict a lot more.

Counters recorded 1,029 sockeye bound for Idaho at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River near Portland. Of those, 730 had survived the trip to Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Clarkston, Washington, 25 miles downstream from Lewiston.

From there the remarkable salmon that climb 6,500 feet in altitude on their great migration have 400 more miles to go and usually half don't finish the trip.

Since 2009, survival from Bonneville Dam to the Stanley Basin, has ranged from a low of 1 percent last year to a high of 60 percent in 2010.

Once to Redfish Creek the fish are collected at a weir. Others are caught at the Sawtooth Hatchery. They are used as broodstock for several hatcheries or placed in Redfish or other Sawtooth basin lakes to spawn naturally.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker

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