Historically More than 2 million chinook salmon returned to the Snake River Basin each year.
In the 1950s 150,000 wild spring/summer chinook returned annually. This is now the recovery goal for wild spring/summer chinook.
Current status: A 10-year average of about 20,000 wild spring/summer chinook now return to Idaho each year. In the 1990s, that number dipped as low as 2,500--dangerously close to extinction. Due to recent improvements in ocean conditions, as well as court-ordered spill at dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers, wild spring/summer chinook have experienced a boost. The are still, however, well below numbers that would constitute recovery.
Historically 150,000 sockeye salmon returned to high-mountain lakes throughout the Snake River Basin. An estimated 25,000 to 35,000 of those returned to Redfish Lake in Central Idaho.
In the 1950s 5,000 estimated sockeye returned to Redfish Lake.
Current status: In many of the 20 years since sockeye were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, sockeye salmon were on the brink of extinction and returns to Redfish Lake were in the single digits.
Thanks in large measure to the miracle of genetic science, a hatchery life support system, improved ocean conditions and court-ordered spill on the Columbia and Snake rivers, sockeye returns the last several years have enjoyed a boost that makes their ongoing recovery possible. It is important to stress, however, that these magnificent Idaho icons are still in the emergency room, with the vast majority of returns having been produced in hatcheries. Those not raised in hatcheries, in fact, are no longer referred to as "wild" returns. Rather, they are now called "natural."