Nez Perce Report First Coho Return To Lostine River In 4 Decades

A Nez Perce Fisheries official is reporting that the first adult coho in more than 40 years arrived on a Northeast Oregon river earlier this week.

“I think we’ll see at least a few hundred Coho this fall at our weir on the Lostine,” predicted Jim Harbeck, according to a blog post by the Allen M. and Betty Josephy Library of Western History and Culture in Joseph.

ADULT COHO ARE RETURNING TO THE LOSTINE RIVER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOUR DECADES, THANKS TO A JOINT STATE-TRIBAL PROJECT THAT SAW 500,000 SMOLTS RELEASED IN MARCH 2017. (CRITFC)

Half a million smolts were let loose into the Grande Ronde River tributary in March 2017 through a joint Nez Perce-Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reintroduction project.

Spokane angler Rick Itami attended that release and wrote afterwards that the species was believed to have been “pretty much gone” from the watershed by 1986.

The young coho came from ODFW’s Cascade Hatchery, the same source that was used for the tribe’s reintroduction into the Clearwater Basin, according to Itami.

This year’s smolts had an interesting journey. The Eagle Creek Fire forced their evacuation to Leaburg Hatchery on the McKenzie River before they were released into the Lostine in March.

The goal of the program is to eventually provide harvest opportunities for all fishermen and reseed coho in the Grande Ronde basin as a whole, according to the Columbia River Inter Tribal Fish Commission.

This year’s coho return up the Columbia has been below expectations, with 33,210 counted at Bonneville and 1,237 at Lower Granite on the Snake, the last dam before the Ronde.

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