Skip to main content
King County logo
Kokanee pair up to spawn in restored habitat in Ebright Creek, Sammamish
Kokanee (pronounced kō´· ka · nē).

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.

Emergency action to prevent the possible extinction of native kokanee salmon

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 pictures
Photos of kokanee in tributary creeks of Lake Sammamish in King County, Washington. For detailed description, see the kokanee identification page.
Lewis Creek kokanee picture for identification

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

  • 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

Sign-up for Sammamish kokanee news:

May 8, 2018
Taking emergency action to prevent the possible extinction of native kokanee salmon

The "little red fish" with a big tale to tell
A partnership to save Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon

Celebrating 10 years of kokanee recovery actions
2017 gathering at Confluence Park in Issaquah

Mar. 10, 2017
External article, Issaquah Reporter
Planned kokanee documentary to tell the story of the little red fish in Lake Sammamish 

Kokanee QuestKokanee Quest: get outside
Geocaching around Lake Sammamish

// Instantiate EasyZoom instances var $easyzoom = $('.easyzoom').easyZoom(); // Get an instance API var api = $easyzoom.data('easyZoom');