An adult sockeye salmon that returned to the lower Deschutes River.

An adult sockeye salmon that returned to the lower Deschutes River.

Courtesy Portland General Electric

An effort to bring sockeye salmon back to the Metolious River is seeing surprising gains this season.
 
Three hundred and fifty fish might not sound like much but for the sockeye recovery program in the Deschutes Basin, this year’s returns are a big boost.
 
The returning sockeye are descendants of kokanee, which are normally land-locked salmon. Sometimes kokanee get the urge to migrate to the ocean, in which case they become sockeye. For the past few years, Portland General Electric has been trying to boost sockeye salmon populations through a spawning and hatchery program.

“The first few years we had pretty low runs, ranging from 20 to the height being 86,” said Megan Hill, fisheries manager at PGE.

“So this year we are happily surprised to have 350 sockeye back to date.” 
 
Hill attributes this year’s improved returns to better ocean conditions and river temperatures. Returns of sockeye salmon across the Northwest are better in most Columbia River tributaries, following dismal returns last year.