Fall Chinook Salmon Spawn in Record Numbers in Snake River
Fall Chinook salmon not only returned in droves to spawn in the Snake River Basin, but also created a record number of redds, or nests, that bodes well for the future.
Data culled from several sources show that a record number of salmon spawned in the Snake River Basin in 2013, boosted by a record number of wild fall Chinook that passed Lower Granite Dam, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) announced on February 25. It was the highest number of wild fish to return since the Ice Harbor Dam was built in 1960.
“The multi-agency run reconstruction of fish returning to Lower Granite Dam revealed 21,000 wild fall Chinook returned to the Snake River in 2013, accounting for 37.5 percent of the total Snake River fall Chinook return of 56,000 fish,” the CRITFC said in a statement. “Over 6,300 redds were created in the Snake River and its tributaries between Lower Granite and Hells Canyon dams. The increase in Snake River returns and the increased distribution in redds were aided by tribal programs that supplement existing Snake River fall Chinook populations.”
Fall Chinook numbers were already surpassing expectations in the Columbia River, with more than a million returning, the CRITFC noted back in September 2013. Moreover, fall 2014 is looking to surpass even that record, with a potential 1.6 million returning, the Lewiston Tribune reported on February 21.
Now, Northwest tribes are again jubilant at yet another “return of the king,” as Chinook are known. The Snake River return records are being attributed to the success of an innovative hatchery program that intermingles hatchery fish with wild. It was a controversial notion when it was first implemented, but subsequent studies have indicated that the interbreeding does not harm either population.
“The Nez Perce Tribe’s Snake River recovery program has resulted in fall chinook returns that the region can truly celebrate,” said CRITFC Chairman and Nez Perce Tribe Executive Committee member Joel Moffett in the statement. “Despite returning to a river noted for hot temperatures and poor passage conditions, these resilient fish were able to spawn in numbers not witnessed in many, many years.”
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