Monday, October 1, 2012

Reintroduced Sockeye Spawning in Cle Elum Lake

A landmark effort to reintroduce sockeye into the Upper Yakima watershed is entering its fourth year, and a banner run of sockeye on the Columbia means that 10,000 fish will spawn in the Upper Cle Elum this year. A part of a pilot project assessing the feasibility of reintroducing sockeye to the Cle Elum Lake system began in 2009 when biologists with the Yakama Nation, US Bureau of Reclamation, Washington State and Grant County PUD trapped 1,000 fish at the Priest Rapids fish ladder on the Columbia and transported them to Cle Elum lake. Since then the number of fish transported to Cle Elum has increased steadily, including 2,500 fish in 2010, 4,500 last year and 10,000 this year. An agreement between Grant County and the Yakama Nation allows 3% of the fish at Priest Rapids to be taken for the reintroduction.

Offspring of fish which successfully spawn above Cle Elum Lake have been transported downstream of the dam by a temporary wooden flume in the spillway. While the situation isn't ideal for getting juveniles past the dam, recent high water springs have aided downstream passage and biologists expect the first offspring of reintroduced sockeye to return next fall. Sockeye typically have a 3-4 year lifecycle, rearing in lakes for one year before migrating to sea for 2-3 years. Like many of the lakes in the Yakima irrigation project, Cle Elum historically supported a large run of sockeye and the pilot reintroduction project is an important first step towards reintroducing the once prolific fish.

More in an article from the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

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