sockeye salmon

This year’s projected sockeye salmon return to Idaho is very low.

The first sockeye salmon of 2019 returned to the Redfish Lake Creek trap near Stanley on Aug. 2, according to Brian Pearson of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Last year the first sockeye salmon arrived at that site on July 26 and in 2017 the arrival was on July 27.

The fish is among 53 sockeye that have so far crossed Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston. That’s the last dam that fish cross before reaching Idaho, Pearson said.

So far this year’s sockeye run through Lower Granite is below last year’s total of 276 fish and the 228 fish that crossed through in 2017. The 2017 run was the lowest return in a decade, Pearson said. Fish managers believe the 2019 return will be even lower.

Idaho sockeye must complete a 900-mile migration from the Pacific Ocean that includes crossing eight dams and climbing 6,500 feet in elevation to reach the Sawtooth Basin.

Idaho sockeye were listed under the endangered species act in 1991 after just four adult sockeye returned to the Stanley Basin. The combined annual return from 1991 through 1999 was 23 fish, including two years when no sockeye returned to the Gem State. Between 1996 and 2007 the annual return of sockeye over Lower Granite averaged 52 fish. Since 2008, sockeye returns over Lower Granite have averaged 1,115 fish. The highest return occurred in 2014 when 2,786 of the fish came back.