Fish and Game fisheries biologists predicted at least 100 sockeye would return to the Sawtooth Basin in this summer's run and now the figure stands at 165.
On August 11, 165 of the endangered salmon had returned some 900 miles from the ocean through the Columbia, Snake, and Salmon Rivers. The sockeye run this year far outpaces any recent return and is larger than the total of all runs since the fish was placed on the federal endangered species list. The adult fish in this run left Idaho as smolts in 1998. Most were raised to that stage in an unusual captive breeding program.
In 1998, an estimated 143,000 sockeye salmon smolts left the Sawtooth Valley in route to the ocean. That year 81,000 yearling smolts were released into the Upper Salmon River and into Redfish Lake Creek to head immediately downstream. Another 60,000 smolts migrated from Redfish, Alturas, and Pettit Lakes where they had been planted in 1997 as sub-yearlings. About 2,000 wild or natural smolts, most of which came from adult or eyed-egg plants to Redfish Lake also headed downriver in 1998.
Fisheries biologist Paul Kline said most of the adults will be released to spawn naturally in the three lakes while 10 to 20 may be kept and incorporated into the spawning program at Eagle Hatchery. Additional hatchery-produced adults will be available to plant this year as well. The sockeye recovery program is a cooperative effort with IDFG, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the University of Idaho sharing responsibilities. The project is funded entirely by the Bonneville Power Administration.