First Sockeye Of The Year Comes Back To Idaho

Jul 31, 2018

Two sockeye salmon swim in the Columbia River with a Chinook salmon, middle, at the Bonneville Dam fish-counting window near North Bonneville, Washington in 2012.
Credit Rick Bowmer / Associated Press

There likely won't be any Lonesome Larry's this year. The first sockeye salmon of 2018 made it to Redfish Lake Creek on July 26.

Idaho Fish and Game says the fish was trapped near Stanley that day. He, or she, is not alone. Another 232 of his or her friends have crossed the Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston. That’s the last obstacle the fish have on their way back to Idaho from the Pacific Ocean.

It’s not easy getting home. The fish travel 900 miles from the Pacific, over eight dams and have to climb 6,500 feet to get to the Sawtooth Basin.

233 sockeye salmon making their way upriver is good news. It's already five more than last year’s total of 228 fish. 2017 was the lowest run of the fish in a decade.

Still it was better than runs between 1996 and 2007 when annual sockeye returns were just 52 fish. And from 1991-99 the average was 23 fish, except in the couple of years when no fish came back to Redfish Lake.

It was 1991 when Lonesome Larry, a single male adult sockeye, made it back to the lake. He didn’t get a date, as he was the only fish of his kind to return to Idaho. He made headlines, highlighting the plight of the dwindling sockeye salmon and became part of a captive breeding program run by state, federal and tribal officials.

Officials have been trying to boost fish numbers since the Idaho sockeye was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1991. The average since 2008 is 1,115 fish a year. 

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