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Two female sockeye salmon were captured in the adult trapping facility located on Redfish Lake Creek by employees of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery and transported to the Eagle Fish Hatchery for pre-spawn rearing and observation. The fish were about 22.5 inches in length and weighed 3.85 pounds each. Fin clips on the adults indicate that these two are likely four-year-old adults from a release group that emigrated from the Sawtooth Valley in the spring of 2007; scales from each fish were taken at the Eagle Fish Hatchery prior to ponding and will later validate the exact age of the fish. Fish deposit “growth rings” on scales as they age similar to growth rings on a tree. In addition, genetic samples from a small portion of fin were taken from each female and will be analyzed by geneticists from the Eagle Fish Genetics Laboratory to determine where the fish will go – either release or incorporation into the captive broodstock program at Eagle.
Juvenile sockeye salmon that leave Idaho swim about 900 miles downstream to the Pacific Ocean and usually spend two to three years in the ocean. Adult sockeye begin their upstream migration to Idaho in the spring, typically arriving in the Sawtooth Valley in late July through early September. Sockeye salmon spawn in late September through October over graveled areas of lake shoals with upwelling water flow.
The Redfish Lake sockeye salmon was listed as an endangered species in 1991 and recovery efforts involving state, federal and tribal entities have been underway since this time to preserve genetic resources and prevent the extinction of this precious stock. The Redfish Lake sockeye stock is unique to the Pacific Northwest – noted for being the farthest-migrating sockeye salmon at more than 900 river miles, traveling to an area that is the highest in elevation (7,000 feet above sea-level), as well as being the southern-most spawning population of sockeye salmon in North America.
As of July 23, a total of 1,157 Snake River sockeye salmon have passed Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River, the final dam on the upstream migration and about 450 river miles from the Sawtooth Valley.
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