Kokanee salmon fry released in historic ceremony

April 18, 2011

NEW — 5:40 p.m. April 18, 2011

Seventy-five kokanee fry swam in a small camping cooler by Laughing Jacobs Creek, unaware they were surrounded by federal, state, county and city administrators, as well as concerned citizens — all people intent on helping the native salmon survive in the wild.

The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery teamed up with the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group and dignitaries from the city all the way to the federal level for the second annual kokanee fry release at Hans Jensen Park on April 18.

Last year, the group released the kokanee at Ebright Creek in Sammamish, and next year the release will be celebrated at Lewis Creek in Issaquah.

“This fry release is a critical part of our kokanee recovery and restoration efforts,” said David St. John, Department of Natural Resources government relations administrator.

He outlined the group’s goals: preventing kokanee extinction and restoring a diverse and native habitat for the salmon.

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Join leaders to release threatened kokanee salmon

April 16, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. April 16, 2011

Darin Combs, Issaquah Salmon Hatchery manager, lifts a screen to reveal a tray of 3,100 fertilized Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon eggs. File

King County and Eastside leaders plan to gather along Lake Sammamish on Monday to release kokanee salmon fry into the wild.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger, Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend and Bellevue Mayor Don Davidson, plus representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and local organizations plan to participate and mar the conclusion of another season of Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon restoration work.

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Effort to preserve dwindling species is a team effort

January 18, 2011

Darin Combs, Issaquah Salmon Hatchery manager, lifts a screen to reveal a tray of 3,100 fertilized Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon eggs. By Greg Farrar

Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon used to turn the creeks branching from the lake to the color of rust as thousands of fish headed upstream to spawn.

The once-plentiful fish has declined in recent decades, perhaps due to construction near the tributary creeks, increased predators, disease or changes in water quality.

But the imperiled fish has received a boost from local, state and federal officials in recent seasons.

Scientists started to comb the tributary creeks for spawning salmon late last year and, during the ongoing spawning season, King County and local, state and federal agencies coordinated efforts to restore the species. Read more

Concerns about coho salmon persist as hatchery spawns other species

November 30, 2010

Jed Varney (left) and John Kugen spawn a Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon last month at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Contributed

Lake Sammamish kokanee conservation program continues

The small coho salmon run has left the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery about 750,000 eggs short.

The inexplicable shortfall means the hatchery must truck in coho eggs from the Wallace Creek Hatchery in Sultan in order to meet the 1.2 million-egg goal for the year.

Biologists remain puzzled about the decline in coho, but poor ocean conditions could be a factor in the drop-off.

Teams at the Issaquah hatchery had trapped 475 coho — and did not allow any fish to pass upstream to spawn — by late November. The number represents a fraction of the fish the hatchery spawns during a normal coho run. Read more

Spot spawning salmon along Lake Sammamish tributaries

October 21, 2010

NEW — 2 p.m. Oct. 21, 2010

The streams branching from Lake Sammamish offer Issaquah residents a chance to see salmon battling the current in order to spawn upstream.

The freshwater kokanee salmon should start emerging from the lake and into tributary creeks to spawn later in the fall.

Starting early next month, look for kokanee from the East Lake Sammamish Trail crossing of Ebright Creek in Sammamish, across from 148 E. Lake Sammamish Parkway S.E.

Or spot kokanee from the 185th Place Southeast crossing of Lewis Creek in Issaquah.

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Dozens of chinook reach Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

September 4, 2010

NEW — 10 a.m. Sept. 4, 2010

Rains and cooler temperatures prompted dozens of mighty chinook salmon to return to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery to spawn.

Hatchery workers opened the fish ladder Sept. 3 to start collecting salmon for the spawning season.

Muckleshoot Tribe officials counted more than 8,000 chinook at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard. The tribe — the official keeper of salmon counts — estimates the return to be below average this year.

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Kokanee fry released into Ebright Creek

May 4, 2010

When Wally Pereyra was a fisheries biologist, his first project was rehabbing trout in a stream in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

By the time he moved to his current farmland on the Sammamish Plateau in 1973, he was “imprinted with stream ecology,” he said.

“The stream is a major part of the farm that I moved into,” he said. “The kokanee were a part of the landscape in the fall.”

A hodgepodge of elected officials, government scientists, school children and citizen volunteers met April 21 on Pereyra’s property to release some 200 Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon fry into Ebright Creek.

Ray Mullen, of the Snoqualmie Tribe, banged a ceremonial drum while the fry were dumped from three coolers into the creek on an overcast spring day. Most people in attendance wore boots to trudge through the spongy terrain around the creek.

“I feel like we’re taking a step toward recovery today, instead of steps toward extinction,” said David St. John, chairman of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group.

The fry released April 21 were part of a larger group of 37,000 fry released into Ebright, Laughing Jacobs and Lewis creeks in April.

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County officials encourage residents to celebrate Earth Day

April 22, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. April 22, 2010

Earth Day turns 40 on Thursday, but local officials plan to keep the annual eco celebration fresh with events and initiatives.

King County Council members proclaimed Thursday as Earth Day. The county will host the Earth Day Expo at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.

The event will feature speakers and vendors to help attendees learn more about how to reduce their carbon footprints and live a “green” lifestyle. Participants will also receive discounts and incentives for eco-friendly products and services.

“Annual Earth Day celebrations have been very successful at raising awareness about the challenges we face in preserving our natural environment as well as the many solutions available,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert — who represents Issaquah and other parts of the Eastside — said in a statement. “For example, it is great to see people taking many steps to help our environment, such as bringing their own cloth bags to the grocery store.”

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Bar codes help kokanee salmon in their survival

April 20, 2010

Fish Journal

Under the direction of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the efforts of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group to increase dwindling kokanee salmon numbers in Lake Sammamish are now underway.

Kokanee salmon have been entwined within the history and culture of native and immigrant residents of Lake Sammamish since the Ice Ages. See a previous Fish Journal piece, “Tribal Tales of the Kokanee Trout Clan,” published in The Issaquah Press and on the Web here.

The Kokanee Work Group is comprised of state, county and city municipal officials, conservation organizations, and individuals from King County and surrounding communities. All are highly motivated to save the late run species of native kokanee from an extinction experience similar to that of the early run kokanee in Issaquah Creek.

This winter, fish biologists captured male and female Lake Sammamish kokanee returning to several tributary creeks. More than 34,000 eggs were harvested, fertilized with milt from males and placed in incubation trays at the Cedar River and Chambers Creek state fish hatcheries. Read more

Scientists release kokanee fry to re-establish species

April 13, 2010

On a rain-soaked night late last month, scientists gathered along the banks of Ebright Creek to complete the latest step in a monthslong experiment meant to pull a species from the edge of extinction.

The team used buckets to transfer Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon fry — a few millimeters long and not much larger than a paperclip — from aerated coolers for the last leg of the journey from a hatchery to the wild.

Months earlier, biologists and ecologists collected mature kokanee from the same creek, as part of a last-ditch effort to boost the population of the dwindling species. From Ebright, Lewis and Laughing Jacobs creeks, teams took the fish to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, where teams harvested almost 35,000 eggs.

Scientists had not attempted to raise Lake Sammamish kokanee at a hatchery before. Throughout fall and winter, workers at the state hatcheries in Ravensdale and Lakewood raised the fry from fluorescent orange eggs.

Hans Berge, a King County senior ecologist, and a team gathered March 25 to release about 14,000 fry into the same creeks where he and others netted spawning salmon last fall. In a reverse maneuver, the team plunked the fledgling kokanee into the creeks on a cloudy, wet night.

The nighttime release offered less risk of predators picking off the fry.

Scientists deposited the fry far upstream from Lake Sammamish to allow the fish time to “imprint” on the creeks. Biologists hope the fry memorize the characteristics of the waterways and someday return to the creeks as stop-sign-red, mature salmon to spawn.

Berge estimates the fry swam from the creeks into the lake on the same night as the release. Inside Lake Sammamish, the fry feed on microscopic organisms called zooplankton. Only a fraction of the fry will reach maturity and — in three or four years — return to the creeks to spawn.

Within the next few weeks, scientists will release another 20,000 kokanee fry into Ebright, Lewis and Laughing Jacobs creeks. Read more

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