Idaho's Redfish Lake

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Steve Buckner, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. Steve Buckner

    Steve Buckner Mother Nature's Son

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,348
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Toledo, Wa. on the banks of the Cowlitz
    Home Page:
    http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/enviroreaderblog/archives/119675.asp

    "Two Sockeye Return to Redfish Lake in Idaho
    Here's the thing...
    Last year, around this time, I wrote an entry about the sockeye of Redfish Lake in Idaho (see last year's blog entry) I wrote about how Redfish Lake - named for the fabled sockeye salmon that turned its waters red - only saw three (3) wild sockeye return in 2006. I probably mentioned that a species can't really be much more thretened with extintion than one that has three individuals remaining. I'm sure I commented on how lucky those sockeye were last year that there was at least one male and one female. We all know it takes two to tango.

    Well, most recent reports for Redfish Lake sockeye in 2007 tell us that these fish will live to tango another year. Of the 80,000 smolts released to the great Snake River in 2005, two (2) have returned to Redfish Lake to complete this most amazing life journey. As in 2006, the returns include both a male and a female. whew. That could have been close.

    The sockeye of Redfish Lake travel the farthest inland (about 900 miles from the Columbia River estuary) and to the highest elevation (6,500 feet) of all populations of sockeye. This tremendous journey takes them from the rugged wilderness of Idaho to the salty marine waters at the end of the mighty Columbia River - and back. Two hundred years ago, we can be sure that Lewis and Clark saw more than a few sockeye returning up the Columbia to spawn in Redfish Lake.

    With the construction of the four lower Snake River dams in the mid 1950s, however, the numbers of sockeye returning to Redfish Lake started to dwindle. Tens of Thousands. Thousands. Hundreds. Tens. By 1992, there was only one. Lonesome Larry. And, we all know it takes two to tango. Luckily for the Redfish Lake sockeye (but not for Larry), cryogenics and freezers allowed scientists to perpetuate the sockeye of Redfish Lake, saving Larry to spawn another year. Fifteen years - and millions of dollars - later, we have two. Two. 2. Perhaps, not such a great return on this investment. Then again, what is the price of extinction?

    In 2007, we may get more sockeye back to Redfish Lake than just these two. Estimates are as high as 10. This is good since scientists are saying that preserving the genetic diversity of our salmon populations is critical for their longterm persistence. Some sicentists are saying that high-elevation spawners may be the populations most genetically able to withstand the habitat changes we will see with global warming. Those that can swim 900 miles inland and climb 6,500 feet to spawn in the clearest and coldest water may be the ones to survive when the waters downstream get too warm, too degraded.

    If it takes two to tango, does it take ten to save a population?

    If we are serious about recovering the endangered salmon of the Pacific Northwest, we need to support real solutions. As our climate changes and our Northwest rivers become less suitable for our coldwater salmon and steelhead, we need to restore our degraded rivers and estuaries. We need to reconnect pristine habitats by removing outdated dams. And we need to make some tough choices. It is no secret that I support removing the lower Snake River dams. I have written about this issue before in this blog - and I continue to believe that if we want to see salmon as more than expensive remnants of what used to be, that we need to take action now to save them.

    Posted by James Schroeder at August 8, 2007 4:43 p.m."
     
  2. Jake Smulkowski

    Jake Smulkowski Throwing hoppers into baetis falls

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2005
    Messages:
    479
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Home Page:
    That lake is a beautiful spot and one of my favorite spots on this planet. I don't think you can put a price on those fish. The effort is worth it. When I bring my kids there somewhere down the line, I don't want to have to explain to them why there are none of those fish the lake was named after left. Two represents hope.
     
  3. Panhandle

    Panhandle Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2005
    Messages:
    4,149
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Selkirk Mountains, Idaho Panhandle
    Wonderful!
     
  4. Allison

    Allison Banned or Parked

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2006
    Messages:
    829
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    A skosh o/t, but I've used Redfish Lake for a jumping-off point for a couple of trips to the local backcountry. Last year it was four days in the White Clouds, and in '04, hiked up into the Sawtooths on another multi-day backpack/fishing trip.

    Staying in the lodge at Redfish Lake is like being at summer camp, little crummy rooms with a bathroom down the hall. Crummy in a good and charming way as long as your room is not right above the bar. The food in the restaurant is delish, and they have a mud pie on the menu that is unforgettable.

    There's also a great fly shop right in downtown Stanley, outstanding local hotsprings, rafting, you name it. My favorite CG in the area is Sunny Gulch, which is considered the overflow CG. It's newish and super nice.

    I just can't say enough about the Stanley area, and can't wait to get back there. If any of you saw me on the cover of Washington Trails last year, that lake I'm fishing is in the high country of the White Clouds.

    Just an incredible area. I can make a few reccos based on my trips there if anyone's interested. Hope to get back this summer and maybe try the Frank Church this time.
     
  5. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,655
    Likes Received:
    1,351
    Location:
    Walla Walla, WA
    Ever since lonesome Larry showed up, I've been waiting for the expiration of this run. Not looking forward to it, just expecting it.

    Some say that, technically, the Red Fish may be extinct already. Fortunately it seems they are wrong. RF Lake fish seem to share a lot of genetics with the Kokanee residing in the rest of the drainage (Wallowa, etc.) and there may be a bigger pool of relevant genes that orignally (back in the 80' and 90's) thought. I think I read that on link from a post on this board :)

    I hope to God they can find a recipe that brings these fish back. It may be a Pyrrhic victory from an economic standpoint, but worth every nickle IMO. With the recently published genetics work (now goiong on at the adult rearing facility I believe) I think there is a lot of hope.

    Best yet, I think that work could be applied to critical populations of wild fish everywhere. With cloning and stream channel rearing boxes (not 3 million fish from a factory...i.e. Dworshack) I think there is a way to subvert the issue of turning around low spawner count. I bet local fisheries enhancement groups would fun this work. I'd help my local waters with $, for sure.

    Now if we could fix the four H's...

    Great blog post.
     
  6. Keith Hixson

    Keith Hixson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2006
    Messages:
    1,539
    Likes Received:
    72
    Location:
    College Place, Washington
    I am not familiar with RedFish Lake. I am curious as to what route the salmon take on their return to RedFish Lake. It seems to me that they are so far from the ocean and all the dams etc it would be almost impossible for them to be ocean going fish. Are they a landlocked Sockeye?

    Keith
     
  7. martyg

    martyg Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Messages:
    1,352
    Likes Received:
    314
    Location:
    The world at large
    So I should know this, but is there an "A" List of people that we should be writing letters to? Or just wait until a new administration is in place?
     
  8. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,655
    Likes Received:
    1,351
    Location:
    Walla Walla, WA
    Nope. They go up the Columbia, Snake, then Salmon.

    While digging areound I found this PDF about the God squad trying to snuff out the RedFish Sockeye. Some good history in there too.

    I wonder, why not captive breed some of the fish at a place with less obtacles (Ozette for example) to boost the spawner numbers? You could clip and tag the RFL fish and trap all returning adults. You could probably do in a few years what would take decades to do when based in ID. Or I'm an idiot and it wouldn't work :)
     
  9. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,655
    Likes Received:
    1,351
    Location:
    Walla Walla, WA
    Write your congressman/woman. Congress holds the keys to funding. Without $$ support, things get real tough. And vote out people like this.

    Dude stood in the way of the Elwah removal as long as he could and ultimately held the purse strings on any project involving the removal of Dams (Senate appropriations comitte I think).

    And his family made their $$ harvesting fish. Maybe he thought lower numbers meant higer demand and more profit. Maybe all they fishticks they make use Carp (i.e. Talapia) and they don't care about Salmon at all.

    Maybe he's just an idiot.
     
  10. Steve Buckner

    Steve Buckner Mother Nature's Son

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,348
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Toledo, Wa. on the banks of the Cowlitz
    Home Page:
    These sockeye are not landlocked, or at least, not by choice. The dams have done the damage, (so maybe they are landlocked???) Anyway, this is a clear case of the dams being the cause of the near extinction (if not total extinction) of these and other, wild, anadromous fish. In this case, the article focuses on Sockeye. As I understand it, before the dams, the lake and surrounding area would see runs in the millions, hence the name.

    In this particular case, these sockeye have to swim past the lower columbia and the Snake River dams to reach the lake. 20 something years ago, I stopped at Redfish lake because it was pretty much a given that these fish would one day become extinct. I distinctly recall looking at a small white board with the daily counts written with a grease pen. The counts showed the decline over the decade before, each year the run was decreased by about half.

    Who controls the dams is a political issue - and Larry Craig(R) of Idaho has been instrumental in the decimation of these fish. You could let him know how you feel about it. It seems somehow appropriate that the last Sockeye to return to Redfish Lake was named "Lonesome Larry", given Larry Craig's bathroom incident...
     
  11. gt

    gt Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2005
    Messages:
    2,698
    Likes Received:
    64
    Location:
    sequim, WA
    family cabin used to be on alturus creek. red fish lake was actually something to behold as late as the 80s. the creek actually had spawning chinook as well, totally amazing to see this so far from the tidal flow.

    the damns on the lower snake are there for one reason, lewiston ID wishes to be thought of as a shipping 'port.' they serve no other purpose at all. that free flowing part of the snake allowed me to catch my very first steelhead, 25#+, all under water for decades.

    take'um out is my vote.
     
  12. sharpshooter223

    sharpshooter223 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2007
    Messages:
    486
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    richland/pullman, wa
    you cant just take out dams like that. those things provide so much energy that you cant just replace. a ton of people would be without energy for a long time if any of those were removed.
     
  13. gt

    gt Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2005
    Messages:
    2,698
    Likes Received:
    64
    Location:
    sequim, WA
    2-3% of the power in the PNW grid come from ALL of the snake river damns combined!

    take'um out!!!
     
  14. Zen Piscator

    Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

    Joined:
    May 7, 2004
    Messages:
    3,074
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    Missoula, MT
    Home Page:
    Sharp,
    You are completely wrong, do you anything to back your claims up? What worries me is that your opinion seems to common among people from my side of the state (eastside)
     
  15. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    actually dude, the dams on the snake produce less than 3% of the energy in the PNW, which could easily be replaced by energy saving technologies as well as wind farms.

    2 sockeye or 10, that run is functionally extinct. The genetic diversity of the run is basically completely lost due to the low numbers of individuals. While there are still fish (10) swimming back to redfish lake in the long run they're goners. It's tragic and should not be taken lightly, but we need to focus our energy and dollars on what CAN be saved. Snake river Chinook and Steelhead have a chance at recovery (albeit slim) but every year that goes by with those dams in place the likelihood of their extinction grows. Write your senators, lets make some noise guys. Time is SHORT!