First salmon released in the Upper Deschutes tributaries returns home

June 10th, 2011

PGE biologist James Bartlett holds the first returning Chinook, a male weighing 12 pounds. A 12-pound male salmon, one of thousands of Chinook that biologists and volunteers released into the Upper Deschutes tributaries above the Pelton-Round Butte Hydro Project in 2008, has made history. It’s the first fish to return.

A fish with its right maxillary bone clipped — a marker indicating it was released in the Upper Deschutes tributaries, swam into the Pelton fish trap on May 25. The fish had migrated down the Deschutes River in 2009, spent two years in the Pacific Ocean and swam up the Columbia River and 100 miles up the Deschutes.

Fish biologists and staff from PGE, the Warm Springs Tribes and Oregon Fish and Wildlife celebrated this historic milestone of seeing the first fish complete a round-trip journey. Work on developing plans for restoring fish passage — what eventually became the Selective Water Withdrawal tower and fish collection facility — started more than 15 years ago.

A second salmon returned to the Pelton fish trap on May 31. This fish had been released in the Metolius River as a fry in February 2008 and had been captured on its downstream migration near Allingham Bridge on the Metolius River and implanted with a computer chip (a Passive Integrated Transponder or PIT tag) on April 22, 2009. (The June 15, 2010, blog entry has a photo of this trap, and the April 26, 2008, blog entry describes the use of these tags). The adult salmon carrying the tag was automatically recorded ascending the Bonneville Dam fish ladder on May 10, 21 days before it reached the Pelton Trap.

Both these fish are now living in a holding tank at Round Butte Hatchery. When they are ready to spawn, biologists will use their sperm to fertilize eggs and pass on the genes of these hardy survivors to a new generation.

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