Coho salmon were exterminated in the Clearwater River following the installation of the Lewiston Dam in 1927. Early restoration efforts by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) were attempted from 1962 to 1968 in the South Fork of the Clearwater River. These restoration efforts were largely unsuccessful due to ice formation, de-watering, (Richards 1967, Gray 1969), flooding, and situation (Richards 1966). As a result, the IDFG program was discontinued in 1968, and no restoration attempts were conducted thereafter. Coho salmon were officially declared extirpated from the Clearwater River in 1986. This loss was unacceptable to the Nez Perce Tribe, which recognized the cultural and ecological importance of Coho salmon to the Clearwater River. In 1994, the Nez Perce Tribe’s Clearwater Coho Restoration Project (CCRP) was initiated.
The CCRP began in 1994 as a result of a U.S. V. Oregon agreement, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (representing the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes) with State and Federal agencies. In this agreement, surplus Coho eggs from Lower Columbia River hatcheries were used to reintroduce Coho salmon in the Clearwater sub basin. The overall goal of the CCRP is to restore Coho to the Clearwater River Sub basin at levels of abundance and productivity to support sustainable runs and annual harvest.
- Establish a localized Clearwater River Coho salmon brood-stock via supplementation.
- Establish natural spawning populations of Coho salmon in the Clearwater sub basin.
- Utilize hatchery production to achieve optimal production effectiveness while meeting priority management objectives for natural production enhancement, diversity, harvest, and minimizing impacts to non-target populations.
- Restore and maintain treaty-reserved tribal and recreational fisheries.
- Monitor and evaluate program activities and communicate program findings to resource managers.
Current Production Activities:
- In the fall, returning adult Coho are collected at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, Kooskia National Fish Hatchery and Lapwai Creek for spawning at KNFH.
- ~ 300,000 Coho juveniles are incubated, hatched, and reared at Dworshak and Kooskia.
- In the spring of each year, Coho smolts at Dworshak are transported to Kooskia.
- Following an acclimation of 4-6 weeks, Coho smolts held at Kooskia are directly released into Clear Creek.
- ~ 650,000 eyed Clearwater River Coho eggs will be transferred to Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery.
- 550,000 Coho smolts are imported from Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery, and directly released into Lapwai Creek (275,000) and Clear Creek (275,000).
- 30,000 Coho fry are reared by the Potlatch Corporation and direct released into Orofino Creek in May of each year.