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Our beloved native and rare kokanee salmon have returned to streams around Lake Sammamish!  The video below shows a recorded view of kokanee spawners in Ebright Creek, a tributary of Lake Sammamish and whose headwaters include the Sammamish City Hall grounds.  Ebright Creek usually hosts the most returning kokanee and did again this year.  The total number of returning spawners to multiple creeks this year was around 100, an alarmingly low number.  In this clip you can see kokanee that showed up in the creek on November 15, 2018.

Recorded view

These kokanee were born three or four years ago in this creek or one nearby, and since then have lived only in Lake Sammamish as they grew into 12-16 inch-long spawners.  These fish are survivors! They have toughed it out through recent conditions in Lake Sammamish that are believed to have decimated the last two kokanee returns and put this kokanee population closer to extinction than ever before. The fish with more red and humped backs are males; those that are more striped gray and red are females.

View of the healthy stream and riparian conditions at the Kokanee Cam location.
kokanee-cam-ebright-creek

In the images above of Ebright Creek you can see some of the healthiest spawning habitat that remains in the Lake Sammamish watershed, which was opened up in 2012 as part of a privately-funded project to remove a road culvert that prevented fish access for 50 years or more. 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.

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, before they take on their reddish hues during the spawning run.  If you catch one while fishing on Lake Sammamish, LET IT GO!

Adult kokanee have silvery sides and a blue back.
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 do.  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 or the lake in the spring or fall.

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.