Lake Sammamish Kokanee Recovery Program

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This is the first of a series of stories on lake fish to be submitted by Gary Smith of Trout Unlimited, starting with Kokanee.  Enjoy this primer on Kokanee!

  • Kokanee are the same species as Sockeye salmon, but unlike other salmonids, Kokanee complete their entire life cycle in fresh water, maturing in lakes and migrating into tributaries where they spawn and produce offspring imprinted with that natal water.
  • Lake Sammamish has three main tributaries with viable Kokanee runs:  Lewis, Ebright, and Laughing Jacobs Creeks.  Issaquah Creek once had the largest migration, an early run of summer-spawning Kokanee, but it declined over the period of the state hatchery’s operation and was declared extirpated in 2002.  The remaining Kokanee in the lake are late-run fish, spawning in the fall/winter.  Because they too are a threatened population, local groups decided to supplement the wild fish with hatchery-raised fry.
  • The supplementation plan was developed in 2007 by the Kokanee Work Group (KWG), which represents a myriad of government and non-government organizations, coordinated by a King County official.  The group aims to improve the health of this fish population so it becomes self-sustaining and would ultimately support a Kokanee fishery in the lake.
  • Over the past 7 years, each of the 3 tributary runs has been supplemented with Issaquah hatchery fry raised in its respective natal water and released in springtime.  This spring, Issaquah Creek received transplants from other streams raised at the hatchery.  The Fry Release Ceremony occurred on Earth Day, April 22, 2016 at Confluence Park in Issaquah and dozens of school children participated and helped to release the Kokanee and wish them well on their journey.