Press Release


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Kokanee Egg Take Underway On Granite Creek

Sometime around the first of November, kokanee salmon begin to show up at Granite Creek on Lake Pend O'reille in preparation for spawning. Shortly thereafter, Idaho Fish and Game employees and volunteers begin to show up to gather eggs for the kokanee hatchery program. The program provides a supply of eggs for the Cabinet Gorge Hatchery, the largest kokanee hatchery in the world. The hatchery was built with funds from the Bonneville Power Administration and Avista Corp., as mitigation for fish and wildlife habitat lost when the Cabinet Gorge Dam was built on the Clark Fork River in 1952. The dam blocked all upstream fish migration into 90% of the drainage, thus preventing spawning by a segment of the populations of bull trout, kokanee and rainbow trout in Lake Pend O'reille. The resulting lack of tributary spawning habitat, the loss of shoreline spawning habitat through fluctuating water levels, the loss of fish downstream in flood years, and predation by trout and char (rainbow trout, lake trout, bull trout) all make the hatchery program more important in the IDFG's efforts to restore kokanee populations in Pend O'reille Lake. A temporary weir and trap are set up at Sullivan Springs on Granite Creek to capture kokanee ascending the stream to spawn. The trapped fish are collected, their eggs and milt are stripped and the eggs fertilized to hatch and rear kokanee at the Cabinet Gorge Hatchery. The goal of the artificial spawning operation is to generate 10 million eggs annually, however, that goal is seldom reached. After rearing, offspring of the operation are released in several locations in the Pend Oreille drainage. Volunteers play a major role in egg collection for the kokanee project. Two to five volunteers assist Fish and Game employees each day that eggs are taken. Bruce Thompson, a Superintendent at the Cabinet Gorge Hatchery, released a summary of the egg take operation as of November 21. Over 15,000 fish have been spawned and just over a million eggs have been collected. The fish are averaging between nine and ten inches in length. Females are averaging 300 eggs per fish, down from the average of 400 last year. The totals so far are behind last year=s pace by 7,000 fish and 400,000 eggs. Many of the females are carrying eggs that are still green and they are not ripe for spawning. In addition, the fish are moving upstream slower than last year due to reduced precipitation. 4,000 fish are holding just below the trap where there were 12,000 at this time last year. Based upon data from 1998 and 1999, the majority of the fish run should show up in the next couple of weeks. By Thanksgiving, we should have a good idea how this year's run and egg take will compare to previous years and the program goals. Eagles have begun to show up in Granite Creek and increasing groups of mergansers and seagulls have appeared near the summer cabins at Granite Bay. Anyone interested in taking part in this effort which has become something of a North Idaho tradition, is invited to call Pete Gardner at the Fish and Game Regional Office (769-1414) to volunteer.