Coho Salmon Restoration Approach

The coho salmon population in the Elwha River is considered relatively healthy. They are of mixed origin, from both wild and hatchery stock. Restoration of coho focuses on increasing the number of fish at all stages of their life cycle.

The current hatchery program for Elwha coho salmon is operated by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe as a harvest augmentation for commercial and recreational fishing. The annual release goal is 750,000 yearling smolts.

A summary of the Elwha River coho salmon restoration strategies includes:

  • Release of smolts from hatchery
  • Natural spawning of adults
  • Planting of fertilized eggs
  • Distribution of fry and smolts in various upstream locations

Restoration Strategies:
Pre-dam removal
During dam removal
Post-dam removal


Pre-dam removal:
Enhancement activities for coho salmon will focus on maintaining the existing hatchery program. Efforts will aim to maintain fish production at historic levels, emphasizing release of smolts from the Lower Elwha Hatchery. Recreational and commercial harvests will be maintained at current levels.


During dam removal:
While the dams are being deconstructed, large quantities of sediment will be released and conditions in the lower river may be temporarily unsuitable for spawning.

Enhancement strategies will be used to maintain the hatchery-based population. At low return levels, enhancement will emphasize hatchery release of smolts, and as numbers of returning adults increase, the program will expand to include distribution of fish (at various ages) to upstream locations. All harvest of Elwha coho will be suspended during the restoration period.


Post-dam removal:
During this period, dam removal will have been completed and the period of greatest turbidity will have passed. Hatchery production will be phased out as coho returns reach self-sustaining levels.

Complete Restoration Plan (200-page PDF):
Ward, L., P. Crain, B. Freymond, M. McHenry, D. Morrill, G. Pess, R. Peters, J.A. Shaffer, B. Winter, and B. Wunderlich. 2008. Elwha River Fish Restoration Plan – Developed pursuant to the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act, Public Law 102-495. U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-NWFSC-90, 168 p.


This webpage was made possible in part by a grant from Washington’s National Park Fund.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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