The first sockeye salmon of 2019 returned to the Redfish Lake Creek trap near Stanley on Aug. 2, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported.
Last year, the first sockeye arrived on July 26, and on July 27 in 2017.
The fish is among the 53 sockeye that have so far crossed Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston (through Aug. 1), which is the last dam the fish cross before reaching Idaho.
The 2019 sockeye run through Lower Granite until now is far below last year’s total of 276 fish, as well as the 2017 total of 228 fish, which was the lowest return in a decade. It is likely that the returns in 2019 will be even lower, the department reported.
Idaho sockeye must complete a 900-mile migration from the Pacific Ocean that includes crossing eight dams and climbing 6,500 feet in elevation to reach the Sawtooth Valley.
When Idaho sockeye were listed in 1991 under the federal Endangered Species Act, only four adult sockeye returned to the Sawtooth Valley. The combined annual return from 1991-99 was only 23 fish, including two years when no sockeye returned to Idaho. Between 1996 and 2007, annual sockeye returns over Lower Granite averaged 52 fish. Since 2008, sockeye returns over Lower Granite have averaged 1,115 fish with an annual range of 228 to 2,786 in 2014.