Thursday June 20, 2024

The Spokesman-Review

The Nez Perce Tribe expects to begin construction this summer on a new kelt rehabilitation center at its Cherrylane Hatchery.

Kelt are adult female steelhead that have spawned and attempt to do so again. Unlike salmon, steelhead have the ability to spawn more than once. The behavior is more common in coastal streams but less so in the Snake River that is more than 400 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Survival of kelts during their return trip to the ocean ranges from 4% to 35%.

In order to do it, the spawned-out fish that are low on energy reserves must repeat the downstream journey they made as juveniles, negotiate their way past eight dams and reach salt water with enough strength left over to forage and grow strong enough to surge upstream, pass all eight dams one more time and spawn.

The Nez Perce Tribe and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission run a program that attempts to boost wild steelhead production by capturing and reconditioning kelts in hatcheries. The program targets wild, mostly B-run steelhead. The fish are captured in the juvenile fish bypass systems at Snake River dams as they are moving downstream. The ones judged to have the best chances of survival are trucked to Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and held and fed for one or two years. When they are ready to spawn again, they are released below Lower Granite Dam.

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