Kokanee – They’re back and swimming in the right direction

Rare, fresh water salmon comes back from brink of extinction in Lake Sammamish – and that’s reason to celebrate. We’ve had a lot of interest in this story by the Issaquah Reporter, so our partners dug around and found out a few more details.

Mountains to Sound Greenway put together a very good blog post reflecting on the work that dozens of partners have done to bring these fish on the brink of extinction back – and the work that awaits upstream.

What makes these fish so special? These native kokanee salmon are just one of four native populations in western Washington, spending their entire existence in and around Lake Sammamish. Long ago, somewhere along their evolution, these little red fish opted out of the arduous oceanic journey taken by their sockeye cousins and stayed local.

Did you know that a program at the Issaquah Fish Hatchery produced almost 500,000 kokanee fry to help preserve the fish population? And last year’s kokanee release saw 46,000 baby fish returned to local streams. It’s pretty unique.
We’re lucky to have a hatchery in the kokanee’s native watershed where we can take wild adult fish, spawn them, raise the young in optimal hatchery conditions and release them into the wild. This helps us rebuild the population so spawning in the wild can sustain them in the long run.

In case you were wondering, this is what adult kokanee look like when they return to spawn. These all but camera shy fish were recorded from our Live streaming Kokanee Cam in Ebright Creek this past November. Very cathartic to watch!

Kokanee in the morning from King County DNRP on Vimeo.

Ecological restoration is a long, slow process, and just as it took lots of little actions by individuals to bring these fish to the brink of extinction, it’s going to take lots of little actions by individuals to bring them back. You can help – visit the Kokanee Work Group’s website to find out how.

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