STANLEY, Idaho (KLIX)-Despite only 44 adult sockeye salmon returning from the Pacific Ocean to Idaho's central mountain lakes, there are more than 2,000 of the fish available for spawning. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced this week the number of sockeye salmon that returned naturally during the 900-mile arduous journey back to Redfish Lake, just south of the small mountain community of Stanley. Despite the low return this year, Idaho Fish and Game said thanks to their program and strategy of "spread the risk" there are roughly 2,750 fish that could naturally spawn. The agency recently released 1,211 sockeyes into Redfish and Pettit lakes for the next journey to the ocean.

Red Rish Lake, (photo by Benito Baeza)

The state agency said with help from its partners, it released 477 fish from the Eagle Hatchery into Redfish Lake along with those that returned on their own. Sockeye fish was also captured in Washington by the NOAA Fisheries safety net program and added to the mix. The goal is to raise close to 1.1 million eggs to replenish the broodstock that will be moved to the Springfield Hatchery.

During the summer 201 sockeye were captured before they could continue their journey inward at the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River because of a heatwave that hit the region in June. The extreme heat warmed waterways that could have been lethal to many fish. It was decided to remove the fish and truck them the rest of the way to the Eagle Hatchery. “Our preference would have been to allow those fish to complete the last leg of their journey on their own because from a genetic perspective, sockeye that make it back to the Sawtooth Basin have a level of fitness that we want in our captive breeding program,” said Lance Hebdon, Fisheries Bureau Chief in a prepared statement. “But based on river conditions, trucking fish from Lower Granite Dam to Eagle was a necessary tradeoff to increase survival.” 2021 was not the first time Idaho Fish and Game had to truck fish the rest of the way due to hot temperatures, in 2015 conservationists did the same thing.

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