Pacific lamprey are rarely seen in the Okanogan sub-basin but fisheries managers are working hard to change that. Efforts have been underway since 2017 with multiple releases happening every year. Recovery of this fish species is a cooperative effort between agencies, tribes and hydroelectric operators. 

“Lamprey translocated into the Okanogan sub-basin are captured at downriver mainstem Columbia hydroprojects,” said John Rohrback, fisheries biologist for CTFW. “The lamprey that were translocated in August were captured at Priest Rapids Dam, brought to Wells Dam where they were measured and PIT tagged, and then we released them into the Okanogan.” 

“During late July through early September for the past few years, Grant PUD fisheries staff deploy and lower four perforated mechanical lamprey traps into both the right and left-bank fish ladders at Priest Rapids Dam to be fished during the night when lamprey are most actively migrating,” said Mike Clement, biologist for Grant County PUD. “The following morning the traps are retrieved, checked, and fish collected are transferred to a fish holding facility.” 

Future sampling efforts over the next five to seven years should provide fisheries managers the data they are looking for. The data collected will provide indications of spawning and rearing success. 

“The goal is to reestablish a viable lamprey population but it’s too early to tell if the fish have successfully spawned, but the fish we have released have been detected at PIT arrays in the streams where they were released, in the mainstem Okanogan, and even in downstream locations, Rohrback said.” 

Since 2017, over 500 lamprey have been released by CTFW. Lamprey have been released into the Similkameen River, Omak Creek, Salmon Creek, the Okanogan River, and the mainstem Columbia immediately downstream of the mouth of the Okanogan. 

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