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Idaho welcomes surge of sockeyes

Sun., Nov. 15, 2009

ENDANGERED SPECIES– A record number of sockeye salmon returned from the Pacific Ocean to central Idaho this year, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said.

The 833 fish is the largest return since the agency started keeping records in 1985. Officials said that, historically, up to 30,000 sockeye spawned in the Sawtooth Valley’s Alturas, Pettit, Yellowbelly, Redfish and Stanley lakes.

Numbers have plummeted over the decades, and sockeye were the first Idaho salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act. The federal government started a captive breeding program in the 1990s to stave off extinction.

Young fish, called smolts, are reared in hatcheries and then released to make the trip to the ocean. Returning several years later as adults, the fish travel some 900 miles up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers to reach the Stanley Basin at an elevation of over 6,500 feet.

“This is a big boost to the program and the smolt release program is starting to show good returns,” said Dan Baker, the department’s Eagle Fish Hatchery manager.

He said that over the last several years the program released between 150,000 and 175,000 sockeye smolts. More fish heading to the ocean can mean more surviving their journey to return to central Idaho.

Staff and wire reports

Wildlife commission to meet in CdA

Discussion of a possible moratorium on certain outfitted hunting activities is on the agenda for the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting Wednesday and Thursday at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

The sessions will open Wednesday at 7 p.m. with a public comment hearing.

On Thursday morning, the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board will meet with the commission to discuss a moratorium on outfitted waterfowl, upland game and turkey hunting and on outfitting on state and private lands.

Among other agenda items, updates will be presented on ungulate ecology studies by Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers, as well as updates on grizzly bear and wolf management and the Lake Pend Oreille Fish Recovery Program.

Rich Landers

Bald eagle fest canceled on Skagit

WILDLIFE – The Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival, which had attracted tourists to eastern Skagit County for 22 winters, has been canceled to ensure the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center can remain open.

The nonprofit organization that operates both the interpretive center and the two-day festival has only enough money for one of those, board president Judy Hemenway said Friday.

Each year the festival and the center have attracted about 10,000 people who come to see scores of bald eagles that arrive to dine on spawned out chum salmon carcasses.

The center will be open from mid- or late December through Presidents Day weekend in February. Bus tours and raptor shows, as well as speakers and interpretive walks likely will still be offered while the eagles are there, Hemenway said.

Associated Press

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