• Snake River fall Chinook hatchery program continues to realize success with wild fish 

    February 2016: 
    For the third year in a row, fall Chinook returning to the Snake River have set a new record.

    Recently-completed spawning surveys identified a new record of 9,345 redds, or gravel nests, built by returning fall Chinook in the Snake River Basin between Lower Granite and Hells Canyon dams. This far exceeds the previous record, set in 2014, when 6,714 redds were counted.

    The redds are especially important because they demonstrate that the fish are spawning in the wild. Snake River fall Chinook are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Improving numbers of wild fish is important to achieving ESA goals set by NOAA Fisheries. Approximately 20,000 wild Snake River fall Chinook have returned to spawn in recent years, far above NOAA’s current abundance goals.

    The Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery and its many partners (see box, right) use scientific hatchery management practices designed to increase wild, or natural-origin, populations. Managers incorporate wild fish into broodstock for the hatchery and release smolts at several locations throughout the Clearwater and Snake River basins. Acclimation to a variety of sites encourages the fish to return to different tributaries, increasing diversity and range – an important factor in resilience of the species.

    Tribal and state managers also set goals for healthy, sustainable populations for harvest and cultural uses. The fall chinook also support very important fisheries from the coast of Washington into Alaska as well as throughout the Columbia River.

    SRFallChinookRedds2015The continued increase in returns of Snake River fall Chinook allowed the managers to open a fall Chinook fishery in the Snake River in 2009. This was the first fall Chinook fishery on the Snake River in 35 years and the fishery has occurred each year since.

    Fall Chinook redd counts in the Snake River and tributaries, right. Managers release the hatchery smolts at a number of sites so that they will return to tributaries throughout the basin. This increases diversity and range, which is important for the overall health of the species.

    “The success of the Snake River fall Chinook is something this region can really be proud of,” said Paul Lumley, Executive Director for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "Over the last 20 years, we've moved from the courtroom to supporting fisheries while putting a substantial number of returning adults on the spawning grounds.

    "This type of program should be replicated throughout the Columbia River Basin, not limited."
  • Project at a glance

    Location: Snake and Clearwater Rivers, near Lewiston, Idaho

    Biological objectives: Restore wild fall Chinook salmon above Lower Granite Dam to healthy, sustainable populations.

    Species: Snake River fall Chinook

    Partners: Nez Perce Tribe, Washington Department of fish and Wildlife, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Widlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Idaho Power Company. Funded by Bonneville Power Administration.

    References: NOAA Fisheries 2014 Biological Opinion for operation of the federal Columbia River hydrosystem; Northwest Power and Conservation Council Fish and Wildlife Program.