Utah Field Guide: Kokanee Salmon

Spending its entire life in freshwater, Utah’s only salmon, the kokanee salmon, is a landlocked form of the sockeye salmon. Kokanee salmon are a popular nonnative game fish in Utah and have been introduced into several other water bodies in the state, most notably Strawberry and Flaming Gorge.

Kokanee are silvery-blue for most of their lives, but turn a bright red color in the fall of their last year, prior to spawning. Kokanee spawn over gravel beds, and they will often dig pits (called redds) to lay their eggs. Much like sockeye salmon, each kokanee salmon returns to the area of its birth to spawn. Kokanee live for three to four years and die after spawning is complete.

If you’d like to witness this annual September ritual, you’re in luck. The DWR is hosting A kokanee viewing event September 19th from 9am to 3pm at the
Strawberry Reservoir Visitor Center. Biologists will be on hand at the Fish Trap and Egg-taking Facility to answer questions and show off these fluorescent red fish.

What an amazing day. It started out with fog, rain, snow and now the snow is finally peaking out. Not bad for the first part of winter.

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