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Return of sockeye salmon for spawning season looks good so far

Bureau of Land Management of Oregon and Washington

Idaho fish and game officials say the return of sockeye salmon on the Snake River is looking very good this year.

Sockeye salmon migrating back from the Pacific Ocean head to the original tributaries where they were born to spawn.

This week, Idaho's Department of Fish and Game reported more than 700 sockeye had made it over Lower Granite Dam, the last manmade hurdle on the Snake River on the way to breeding streams in the Idaho mountains.

For comparison, 645 fish crossed the dam during all of 2021. There are still several weeks left in the migration pattern this year, so it's expected the total will be much higher.

Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Roger Phillips said there's still quite a journey ahead before the fish make it all the way to their spawning grounds.

"Historically, depending on river conditions, we see a 50 to 60 percent convergence rate between Lower Granite and them actually arriving up in the Stanley area," Phillips said. "And that's a critical part of this because crossing Lower Granite Dam is kind of like rounding third or second base in this case. They still have 450 miles to go.”

Once the salmon make it all the way up to the tributaries, some will be taken to a hatchery to spawn, and others allowed to spawn naturally.

Phillips said the higher number this year is most likely the result of ideal conditions on several fronts.

“With salmon it's really hard to nail down specifically what it is, but we know they need good rearing conditions, good migrating conditions, both to the ocean and back and good ocean conditions,” he said.

The best recent return of sockeye salmon was six years ago, when nearly 2,800 fish made it past Lower Granite Dam.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.