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Kokanee Celebration


Kokanee 2017 celebration

With a decade of coordinated conservation and restoration efforts in the books, members of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group gathered May 11 along Issaquah Creek and reaffirmed their commitment to continuing a coordinated, multi-faceted approach for restoring the unique native fish’s numbers to healthy levels throughout the watershed.

Assembled in Issaquah’s Confluence Park, representatives of the Kokanee Work Group were joined by students on a science field trip from Blackwell Elementary (Sammamish), Medina Academy (Bellevue) and Issaquah Valley Elementary (Issaquah), and by local Scouts, who participated in habitat enhancement work along Issaquah Creek and learned about Lake Sammamish kokanee restoration work, and the ecology of the watershed.

Usually one highlight of this annual event is the release of kokanee fry in the creek.  However, because of an extremely small number of adult spawning kokanee salmon during the 2016-17 spawning season, no juvenile fish were available to release at the kokanee celebration. Instead of releasing fry the students focused on planting native plants along Issaquah Creek, to help restore a rich and diverse floodplain that will support several species of salmon that use the creek.

A key component of the Kokanee Work Group’s restoration efforts has been and will continue to be a kokanee supplementation program at the Issaquah State Salmon Hatchery, where adult kokanee that are gathered from the handful of streams where natural spawning occurs are taken to the hatchery and spawned artificially to increase survival rates.

Another component is crucial ongoing habitat restoration work throughout the watershed.

This includes replacing fish-blocking culverts with structures that allow adult fish to move into upstream spawning areas, and juvenile kokanee salmon to move downstream into Lake Sammamish to mature. Removing barriers blocking access to spawning habitat is critical to the success of the kokanee recovery effort.  A current culvert project by the City of Sammamish and King County on Zackuse Creek will restore access for spawning kokanee in time for the fall 2018 spawning run.

Additional habitat restoration work has occurred in a number of areas within the watershed, including planting native vegetation along creeks to help provide shade, stabilize streambanks, and improve the overall ecological health of a waterway.

The Kokanee Work Group members include King County, the USFWS, WDFW, Washington State Parks, the cities of Sammamish, Issaquah, Bellevue and Redmond, the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, Save Lake Sammamish, Friends of Pine Lake, Trout Unlimited, Mountains to Sound Greenway, community groups and kokanee recovery advocates.

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