Utah Field Guide – Kokanee salmon

Spending its entire life in freshwater, the kokanee salmon, is a landlocked form of the sockeye salmon. Kokanee salmon are a popular nonnative game fish in Utah. They’ve been introduced and become established in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Strawberry Reservoir, and several other water bodies in the state.

Kokanee salmon 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 salmon spawn over gravel beds, and they will often dig pits (called redds) in the gravel to lay their eggs. Much like sockeye salmon, kokanee salmon returns to the area of its birth to spawn. Also similar to the sockeye salmon, kokanee salmon live for three to four years and die after spawning is complete. In Utah, kokanee salmon eggs hatch in the spring, usually in April.

Right now, bright red kokanee salmon have started to swim up some of the tributaries to Strawberry Reservoir. DWR biologists use a trap to capture some of the spawning kokanee to take their eggs to help sustain the population not only in Strawberry but around the state. For more information on the kokanee or any other critter found in Utah, check out our Utah Field Guide on our Outdoors page at KSLTV.com.

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