Lake Sammamish Kokanee Conservation

2/1/2013 - Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon Observed in 13 Streams

  Map of Lake Sammamish tributaries. Those
  in red are tributaries where kokanee have
  rarely been observed in recent years until
  2012. Those in black are the four main
  spawning tributaries.
This past year’s return of kokanee to Lake Sammamish tributaries saw several thousand spawners in the four main tributaries (Lewis, Ebright, Laughing Jacobs, and Pine Lake Creeks). In addition, kokanee spawners were unexpectedly observed in other tributaries--George Davis and Zaccuse Creeks on the east side; Issaquah, East Fork Issaquah, Tibbetts, Pickering, and Schneider Creeks in the south end; and Vasa and Idylwood Creeks on the west side of Lake Sammamish. For most of these additional creeks, spawning kokanee have been recorded in the past but have not been observed in recent years. In two of the creeks (Pickering and Schneider) kokanee do not appear to have ever been observed before 2012.

Agency staff members from King County, WDFW, and USFWS, as well as private landowners, conducted periodic surveys of these creeks in 2012. In addition to counting the live spawning fish, surveyors also collected kokanee carcasses in order to remove their otoliths (ear bones). The otoliths will be analyzed in the lab to determine if fish originated from Issaquah Creek State Hatchery or were naturally produced. Tissue samples were also taken from some of the fish to determine their genetic make-up.

This past year’s results indicate that Lake Sammamish kokanee are spawning in tributaries on all sides of the lake, underscoring the need to protect and restore as many tributaries as possible in order to sustain this native population.

   Kokanee spawning area in Schneider
   Creek. Prior to 2012, kokanee were
   not known to use this tributary.


11/20/2012 - Lake Sammamish Kokanee Bursting Back into the Streams

Kokanee salmon in Ebright Creek

This season’s kokanee salmon are off to an early and exciting start at Lake Sammamish. After a late and very dry summer in western Washington, the spawning streams were down to a trickle and rain seemed like a distant memory. But when the rain finally returned in late October, the kokanee in the lake began their short journey upstream to spawn. Right now you can see hundreds of these bright red and green fish in Ebright Creek, Laughing Jacobs Creek, Tibbetts Creek, Lewis Creek, Pine Lake Creek, and perhaps other creeks surrounding Lake Sammamish. These land-locked salmon are swimming under roads, through yards, and into neighborhoods and parks to find the perfect spot to deposit their eggs. These fish are living in urban landscapes unfamiliar to their ancestors and the number of fish today is drastically reduced from historic levels. This decline prompted biologists, local governments, and individuals working and living in the area to combine forces to bring back the kokanee and provide evidence of a future where people and wild fish thrive together.

Kokanee salmon swimming up Ebright Creek

This year’s return is highly anticipated because it marks the first time both fish from the hatchery supplementation program and the natural lake population will return to spawn in tandem. The hatchery supplementation program, based at WDFW's Issaquah Creek Hatchery, boosts the numbers of kokanee in the lake by "head-starting" baby kokanee in the safety of the hatchery. This year we hope to see an increase in kokanee returning to and spawning in streams as a result of the supplementation program.

Female and male kokanee salmon looking
for the perfect place to spawn

Through all of this excitement, we and our partners in the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group continue to monitor kokanee numbers, collect a small number of wild fish for the supplementation program, and sample for genetics and health of kokanee in several Lake Sammamish streams. Careful planning and scientific methods are crucial to habitat conservation efforts--the ultimate tool for ensuring a bright future for Lake Sammamish kokanee.

USFWS biologists work their way up
Laughing Jacobs Creek looking for kokanee salmon

To learn more about the Lake Sammamish kokanee, watch these USFWS videos:

Check out our Flickr page for some great photos of Lake Sammamish kokanee. And take a peek into your local creeks and see what fish are calling it home. You might just find a kokanee.

To report kokanee sightings, give us a call at (360) 753-9440 or click on "Contact Us" on our web page to send an email.