Sockeye salmon have no business in the Mad
But there they’ve been, a pair of them,
swimming just downstream of the bridge on
Hatchery Road in Blue Lake. Bright red with
green heads, they stand out, unlike their more
camouflaged steelhead brothers.
The sighting was reported to the
Times-Standard by conservation land consultant
Rondal Snodgrass. But by Wednesday many had
noticed or heard about the out-of-place fish
and went to see them.
Sockeye are more typically found north of
the Klamath River, and in the eastern Pacific
are heaviest in Alaska.
”It’s rare,” said Humboldt State University
fisheries professor Terry Roelofs. “It’s just
an outrageous time of year, too.”
The fish may have run up the river with a
slug of summer steelhead. They’ve been there
at least a week. But why?
Roelofs said most likely they strayed from
more northern populations, as salmon are prone
to doing. He said it’s possible that the
strange ocean conditions earlier this summer
-- with a lack of upwelling due to weak
northwest winds -- are in part responsible for
Sockeyes grow to about 8 pounds. They feed
on plankton, unlike other salmon. Sockeye
spawn in lakes above streams, and most migrate
downriver to the ocean while others remain in
Roelofs said another possibility is that
landlocked sockeye -- called kokanee -- from
Trinity Lake spawned and their young made it
over Trinity Dam and eventually to the ocean,
to return up a different river.
Sockeye in North Coast rivers isn’t unheard
of, however. Roelofs said several years ago a
class found sockeye in the Smith River,
Redwood Creek and the Mad River. Others have
reported seeing a handful in area rivers over