Each year, students throughout the Mid-Columbia region raise salmon in their classrooms.
After carefully tending the young fish from the egg stage to the fry stage, students release their fry into area streams and rivers. Have you ever wondered what happens next? We have! The two videos below show coho fry in a side channel of the Yakima River, just after being released by an Ellensburg class.
The fry will remain in our streams and rivers for a year or more before beginning their long journey to the Pacific Ocean. Fish in the Upper Yakima basin have a 500 mile journey to reach saltwater. After eating and avoiding being eaten in the ocean, coho will usually return to freshwater when they are 3 years old. Chinook may not return until they are 4 or 5 years old.
The adult fish move up the Columbia and Yakima Rivers, crossing numerous dams and seeking refuge in pockets of cool water as they travel. They return to the stream in which they hatched. The female salmon uses her tail to create a nest, or redd, in the gravel of the streambed. The male swims alongside her and releases milt to fertilize her eggs as they are deposited into the gravel.
Sockeye salmon were extirpated from the Yakima River basin in the early 1900s, when dam construction prevented them from reaching the large lakes they need. The Yakama Nation is working to restore sockeye salmon to the basin, and has begun reintroduction in the Cle Elum River system. The video below shows some of the first adult sockeye to swim (and evenutally spawn) in the Cle Elum River in nearly a century!
Chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon do not survive to return to the ocean after spawning. All of their energy has gone to ensuring the success of the next generation of salmon.