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This is a view of kokanee returning to spawn during last year’s (fall 2015/winter 2016) run on Ebright Creek, a tributary of Lake Sammamish whose headwaters include Sammamish City Hall grounds.  We were hopeful that we could capture and share video from returning spawners from this year’s return, but there are so few fish (<50) returning this year that we haven’t had opportunities to get current video.  This year’s low return is a good reminder that we need to continue our urgent efforts to boost the abundance of our precious little red fish!

Recorded view

The returning kokanee in this view were in some of the healthiest spawning habitat that remains in the Lake Sammamish watershed. All of these fish spent their whole lives in the Lake Sammamish watershed, and most spent three summers in Lake Sammamish growing from inch-long fry to 12- 16-inch-long spawners. Ebright Creek is one of only three creeks that today hold spawning kokanee in significant numbers, and it often holds the highest number of returning kokanee in any year. The fish with more red and humped backs are males; those that are more striped gray and red are female fish. 

View of the healthy stream and riparian conditions at the Kokanee Cam location.

Kokanee salmon are historically native to the Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington watershed, and the Lake Sammamish kokanee population is one of only two populations native to the Puget Sound basin. The other is 90 miles away in Whatcom County.

Adult kokanee have silvery sides and a blue back while living in Lake Sammamish, and grow to be about 12-16 inches long.

Silver kokanee salmon on the beach

These salmon spend their entire lives in Lake Sammamish and its streams - they do not go to the ocean like most other salmon.  The health of this kokanee population has declined dramatically in recent decades, so these fish are in danger of extinction if no action is taken in the watershed to help them recover. Some of these fish will be taken to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery as part of a program initiated in 2007 by the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group. This program produces kokanee that are released in their home streams in the spring, to help prevent the extinction of these native kokanee and improve the health of the population so it eventually supports a renewed kokanee fishery on the lake. This program has successfully raised and released young kokanee for seven consecutive years and is anticipated to continue into the early 2020s.

Adult kokanee pair returning to spawn in Ebright Creek. Photo by Roger Tabor, USFWS.
Kokanee return to Ebright Creek to spawn

Map of Lake Sammamish, tributary streams and Ebright Creek

Lake Sammamish Kokanee Cam location map
Washington State locator map
The Kokanee Cam is located in Ebright Creek

For more information about the Kokanee Cam, please contact David St. John, government relations administrator, DNRP Water Policy Unit.