sockeye

Sockeye Salmon

Photo: Wild Salmon Center 

DESERT AIRE - It’s the largest sockeye salmon return since Grant PUD began tallying fish back in 1960.

Through the end of July, more than 640,000 Sockeye used the Priest Rapids Dam fish ladders on their journey from the ocean to tributaries in the upper waters of the Columbia River Basin.

The salmon are returning to fresh water after initially leaving their native habitat to mature in the ocean. Now, the salmon are returning to spawn.

The second-most sockeye tallied at Priest Rapids was recorded in 2014 with 608,000 fish counted.

Grant PUD's Fish, Wildlife and Water Quality manager suggests ocean conditions were especially good -- plenty of food and cold enough -- while the sockeye were in the ocean maturing.

According to the utility, Sockeye are the third most abundant of the Pacific salmon (behind pink and chum) and are a keystone in the North American commercial fisheries. They are also a popular in recreational fisheries.

Sockeye salmon have a four-year lifecycle and are among the smallest of the five North American Pacific salmon species. Their succulent, bright-red meat is prized above all others. Like Chinook salmon, they are born in freshwater. However, sockeye require a lake nearby to rear in. Once hatched, juvenile sockeye usually remain in their natal habitat for two years; sometimes longer in colder waters located in northern climates. They then journey out to sea where they grow rapidly for two years, feeding mainly on zooplankton.