Yakima Basin Sockeye Reintroduction

Project abstract: 

Four nursery lakes in the Yakima River Basin, which historically produced an estimated annual return of at least 200,000 sockeye, were removed from production in the early 1900s when irrigation storage dams were constructed without passage.  The Yakama Nation is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other Yakima Subbasin partners to restore fish passage to all of these historical lakes with initial emphasis on Cle Elum and Bumping lakes.  A preliminary juvenile passage flume was constructed and tested at Cle Elum Dam in 2006 and 2007.  Based on the success of this and other prior work, the Yakama Nation negotiated an agreement with the U.S. v Oregon parties to transplant adult sockeye from Priest Rapids Dam to Lake Cle Elum contingent on run size. 

Project goals: 

The Yakama Nation would like this project, combined with other efforts to restore the Subbasin's habitats and ecosystems, to eventually lead to self-sustaining, harvestable returns of sockeye to the Yakima Basin.

Project progress: 

Thousands of adult sockeye have been transplanted to Lake Cle Elum since 2009. The sockeye successfully spawned in tributaries above the Lake in all years and the first native-born sockeye have returned to the Yakima Basin in over 100 years.  A juvenile passage structure is now under construction that will allow juveniles to migrate from the lake regardless of water level.  The structure is expected to be operational by 2023.  Adults returning to Cle Elum Dam will be transported above and released in the Lake to continue on to the natural spawning grounds.

Project downloads: 

Project Photos:

  • First Return Ceremony
  • Sockeye spawning in Lake Cle Elum (Brian Saluskin, Yakama Nation Fisheries)
  • Fisheries Biologists Brian Saluskin and Mark Johnston with elementary and high school students at Cle Elum River sockeye tour
  • Spawned out sockeye. Above: Children view spawning salmon from bridge overlooking Cle Elum River (October 2012)
  • First Sockeye born and raised in Yakima River in over 100 years to return
  • Sockeye Ceremony, July 10, 2013 at Lake Cle Elum
  • Sockeye at Priest Rapids Dam Off-Ladder Fish Trapping Facility
  • Chuck Carl loads Sockeye at Priest Rapids Dam for transport to Lake Cle Elum
  • 2009 Lake Cle Elum
  • Mel Sampson releasing Sockeye into Lake Cle Elum (2009)
  • Cle Elum River during fall sockeye spawning
  • Sockeye Smolt during Fisheries work-up at Prosser. WA (May 2013)
  • Fisheries work-up sockeye Smolt at Prosser, WA (May 2013)
  • Brian Saluskin, Mark Johnston and USFW biologist survey Mackinaw (May 2013)
  • Yakama children watch Mark Johnston survey mackinaw for sockeye smolts (May 2013)
  • Yakima Basin Sockeye Nursery Lakes
  • First Return: Sockeye Ceremony 2013
  • Sockeye being released into lake

Project Videos:

Status: Active

09/06/2005 - Present
Targeted Populations: 
Location Area (Basin, Sub-Basin): 

Project Manager

Additional Project Staff