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Salmon and trout

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Salmon and trout in King County, Washington and the northwest

Lake Sammamish kokanee
King County, Washington

Kokanee: The little red fish that could!
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Kokanee salmon are native to the Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington watershed but now spawn in only a few streams that feed into Lake Sammamish. Unlike their larger relative the sockeye salmon, kokanee do not go out to the ocean but spend their entire lifecycle in fresh water. They migrate from streams as inch-long fry and spend three to four years in Lake Sammamish before returning to spawn in the late fall and early winter in their natal streams.

This kokanee population’s habitat once encompassed the lower Cedar River, smaller tributaries to Lake Washington and the Sammamish River, and the Lake Sammamish watershed. This population once numbered in the tens of thousands of fish. In recent years, the population’s abundance has dipped below 110 spawners three times, and its range has shrunk to just Lake Sammamish and primarily three of its tributary streams used for spawning. Causes of this decline are currently understood to include altered stormwater flows, past hatchery practices, predation, fishing, passage barriers, and lake temperature and dissolved oxygen levels. 

The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group (KWG) is driving the collaborative effort to recover these little red fish. Watershed residents, local jurisdictions, agencies, and NGOs formed the KWG in 2007 to identify the causes of kokanee decline and then develop and implement actions to address them. 

Lake Sammamish Kokanee Recovery Strategic Timeline (361 KB Acrobat pdf)

Lake Sammamish Kokanee Workgroup products

Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership
Extensive effort to support conservation of fish and wildlife in the Sammamish Basin, and contribute to the quality of life for current residents and future generations.

Kokanee identification
Pictures, drawings and descriptions to help identify landlocked sockeye salmon or kokanee.

Kokanee pictures
Photos of kokanee in tributary creeks of Lake Sammamish in King County, Washington.
Lewis Creek kokanee picture for identification

Kokanee videos
Watch videos of spawning, rearing and reintroduction of kokanee in Lake Sammamish tributaries since 2007.

Kokanee studies, reports and documents

Kokanee conservation presentations
Briefing materials presented to regional partners interesting in Lake Sammamish kokanee science, status and conservation efforts.

For questions about Lake Sammamish kokanee, please contact David St. John, government relations administrator, DNRP Water Policy Unit.

Related information

Related agencies

News and announcements

Jul. 15, 2014
External editorial, Issaquah Press
Kokanee work group does important work

May 2, 2014
External article, Sammamish Review
Secretary of Interior visits Sammamish

Apr. 29, 2014
External article, Issaquah Press
Sally Jewell announces watershed partnership

Apr. 25, 2014
Interior Secretary Jewell pitches in with Lake Sammamish kokanee restoration
Leader of nation’s top conservation agency joins King County Executive to release juvenile kokanee, announce new urban refuge education project

» Archived news and announcements