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Idaho Fish and Game

Sockeye Recovery and Status

This information is out-of-date.


The Redfish Lake Sockeye Captive Broodstock Program, a multi-agency and tribal effort started in May 1991, was initiated to protect population genetic structure and to prevent the further decline of Idaho sockeye salmon. The program also produces eggs and fish to reintroduce to the habitat to increase population numbers. Idaho Fish and Game is working with the Bonneville Power Administration to increase the number of smolts the program releases.

Between 1991 and 1998, only 16 wild sockeye salmon returned to Idaho. All of these adults were incorporated into the captive breeding program and spawned at the Eagle Fish Hatchery.

The program releases eggs and fish back to the habitat in a variety of ways. Eyed-eggs are planted in egg boxes and placed in lakes in the fall, presmolts are released directly to lakes in the fall, smolts are released to outlet streams in the spring, and prespawn adults are released to lakes in the fall. A monitoring and evaluation effort is in place to document the success of the different reintroduction strategies.

Over the past twelve years, between 1999 and 2010, 3,193 hatchery-produced adult, sockeye salmon returned to the Sawtooth Valley. For comparison, in the 14 years from 1985 through 1998, 77 natural-origin sockeye salmon returned to Idaho.

12-Year Hatchery Returns
Year Number Details
2010 1,355 648 at Redfish Lake Creek, 652 at Sawtooth Hatchery, 55 trapped or observed at other locations.
2009 833 584 at Redfish Lake Creek, 249 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
2008 650 432 at Redfish Lake Creek, 218 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
2007 4 1 at Redfish Lake Creek, 3 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
2006 3 3 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
2005 6 2 at Redfish Lake Creek, 4 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
2004 27 3 at Redfish (2 at Little Redfish), 23 at Sawtooth, 1 at East Fork Salmon River.
2003 3 2 at Redfish Lake Creek, 1 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
2002 22 8 at Redfish Lake Creek, 14 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
2001 26 15 at Redfish Lake Creek, 11 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
2000 257 119 at Redfish Lake, 138 at Sawtooth Hatchery.
1999 7 All trapped at Sawtooth Hatchery.

Between 1991 and 1998, 16 wild sockeye returned to Idaho. Between 1999 and 2007, 355 hatchery produced adult sockeye salmon returned to the Sawtooth Valley. Over the previous 14 years, 77 natural-origin sockeye returned.


In recent years, the number of full term smolts produced by the program has increased to approximately 200,000 annually. As a result of the increased smolt production, the number of anadromous adults returning to the Stanley Basin has also increased:

  • 650 anadromous adults returned in 2008.
  • 833 anadromous adults returned in 2009.
  • 1,355 anadromous adults returned in 2010.

Male sockeye salmon
2011 Adult Return Facts
  • This year's adult returns will result primarily from smolts that migrated to the ocean in 2009. In that year, about 210,336 natural origin and hatchery-produced smolts left the Sawtooth Valley in route to the ocean.

    The number of returning adults is expected to fluctuate due to many variables including: number of adults spawned in the hatchery program, hatchery spawning success, hatchery egg survival, success of different lifestage releases, and environmental conditions during the life cycle in the freshwater and ocean habitats.
  • Adults are trapped at two locations - Redfish Lake Creek and the Sawtooth Hatchery.
  • A portion of the adults captured in 2011 will be retained and spawned with hatchery reared adults at the Eagle Fish Hatchery. The balance of fish will be released in Redfish Lake in early September.
2011 Adult Release Details
  • Idaho Fish and Game will release about 400 hatchery-produced adult sockeye salmon into Redfish Lake this year. These fish were produced at the Eagle Fish Hatchery and NOAA Fisheries facilities in Washington. Captive reared sockeye and anadromous sockeye will be released to Redfish Lake in early September for natural spawning.
  • The fish released in September will spawn in October. Their progeny will migrate to the ocean in May 2013. Most of the adults produced from this year's release will return to Idaho in August 2015.
Project Cooperators and Their Responsibilities
  • Idaho Department of Fish and Game - Develops and maintains captive broodstocks. Conducts field monitoring and evaluations such as investigating the success of outplanted groups. Idaho Fish and Game genetic staff also provides genetics monitoring and support for the program such as background genetic identity analysis and development of spawning designs.
  • NOAA Fisheries - Shares captive broodstock fish culture responsibilities at two facilities located in Washington state.
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife - Provides smolt rearing for the program.
  • University of Idaho - Provides genetic support for the program.
  • Shoshone-Bannock Tribes - Conducts habitat investigations geared toward determining the ability of nursery lakes to receive eggs and fish from the program. Conducts and evaluates lake fertilization.
  • Bonneville Power Administration - Provides funding and technical administration and oversight.
Last Updated: May 15, 2012 
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