Is it an eel? Is it a snake? No, it’s a Pacific Lamprey! Lamprey are eel-like primitive fishes that lack the jaws and paired fins of true fishes. Their migrations have some similarities to Salmon in that they are born in freshwater and also spend time in the ocean growing to adults. But, there are some differences, lamprey can spend up to seven years in freshwater prior to heading to the ocean! Once in the ocean they spend two to three years there and then return to their freshwater stream to lay their eggs and start the next generation of fish.
Historically, lamprey were abundant in Idaho waters, but their numbers have declined since then. This past fall, the Nez Perce Tribe translocated 50 adult pacific lamprey into the East Fork Potlatch River with the hope of re-establishing a population in the Potlatch River. Since Fish and Game has monitoring equipment like PIT-tag arrays and screw traps in the Potlatch, we will be able to keep an eye on this translocation and see if young lamprey are produced. This release is part of a larger project that the Nez Perce Tribe is doing to translocate lamprey into Idaho.
For more information about these amazing fish click here https://idfg.idaho.gov/fish/wild/spp-lamprey and here https://idfg.idaho.gov/ifwis/cwcs/pdf/Pacific%20Lamprey.pdf.