The Most Interesting Fish in the World

lonesome.larry.IRU.2“So let me get this straight,” said a friend recently at the SOS-Portland office. “Only one lonely sockeye salmon made its way back to Redfish Lake, Idaho in 1992, then they took its sperm to start a life-support restocking program, and finally the fish was stuffed, mounted, and hung on the wall? Wow. That is an epic story.”

Yes, we think so too.  It’s an epic tale and one never far from our minds, especially as we hit the 20th anniversary of his lonely migration home. His name – thanks to the daughter of the onsite hatchery technician – is Larry. Lonesome Larry.

In 1992, Lonesome Larry arrived at the Redfish fish trap after a harrowing 900-mile upstream battle. During this perilous river odyssey, he gained 6,500 feet in elevation and performed acrobatic feats up and over the fish ladders of eight different dams, four on the Columbia, and four on the lower Snake. He did it while shunning food, instinctively focused only on his return home, and the opportunity to spawn.

By the time Larry arrived in his home waters in the Sawtooth Valley, sockeye salmon were in eminent danger, having been listed an endangered species only the year before. In a fateful turn, he was the only one of his kind to survive that year. With no love interest in sight, his inborn destiny of spawning to perpetuate his species seemed tragically lost.

But all was not lost. Larry has in turn spawned generations of endangered Snake River sockeye populations that are no longer surviving in the single digits. Last year, approximately 1,100 of Larry’s offspring survived the return migration to the Sawtooth valley. 150 of these sockeye were wild. While these numbers are still shockingly low, they offer hope that a fish on the brink of extinction can be saved. And it’s all because of Larry.

As Dan Klotz stated over at NatGeo Newswatch, "The ballad for this unsung hero has yet to be finished."

Our dear friends at Idaho Rivers United have launched a great campaign to honor the 20th anniversary of Larry’s return and highlight the ongoing plight of Snake River salmon, their epic journey, and the wonderful place they call home. They've dubbed Larry the "Most Interesting Fish in the World."

Check out Lonesome Larry’s website:

Follow Larry’s ongoing adventures on Facebook and Twitter as well:

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