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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, but today its range is only Lake Sammamish and primarily three of its tributary streams used for spawning.. This population once numbered in the tens of thousands of fish. Since 2007-2008 the number of returning spawners has dipped below 150 spawners four times. 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 streams (click to open pdf):
Lake Sammamish kokanee streams map


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.

  • Spring 2015 Video: 6th Annual Lake Sammamish kokanee fry release New!
    Classes from Pine Lake Middle School and Blackwell Elementary in Sammamish and from Campbell Hill Elementary from Renton helped release kokanee salmon fry into Laughing Jacobs Creek.  King County Executive Dow Constantine and a student leader from Pine Lake Middle School speak in this video.
  • Kokanee Cam
    Underwater video of kokanee returning to a stream in the Sammamish Watershed. 

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

Jan. 8, 2016
External article, Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter 
Kokanee return: Third highest spawning run in the last two decades

Nov. 23, 2015
Kokanee Quest: Go on a hunt for treasure in the Lake Sammamish watershed and become an expert on the ‘little red fish’

Nov. 19, 2015
External report, KING5 News
'Kokanee cam' broadcasts live under water

Kokanee QuestKokanee Quest: get outside
Geocaching around Lake Sammamish

Nov. 12, 2015
External article, Issaquah Reporter
Zaccuse Creek could prove a boon for kokanee

Oct. 16, 2015
External article, Issaquah Press
Local salmon savior ready to take on his next fight

Oct. 8, 2015
External article, Bellingham Herald
Study: Highway runoff kills salmon but filters can help

Jul. 22, 2015
Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter
Sammamish development near Ebright Creek denied last week 

Jul. 21, 2015
External article, Seattle Times
Sammamish residents win ruling to block subdivision near salmon creek 

May 5, 2015
External report, KIRO TV
Sammamish homeowners fighting development over salmon and traffic concerns

May 2, 2015
External article, Issaquah Reporter
Kokanee release captures local students’ imaginations

May 2, 2015
External article, Seattle Times
Sammamish residents say development would add traffic, harm salmon

Apr. 24, 2015
Earth Week Sammamish kokanee release celebrates partnership to save ‘little red fish’ 

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