Catching a legacy as Issaquah Salmon Hatchery turns 75

April 24, 2012

Vicki Hahn (above, left), FISH master docent, uses hatchery sculptures Gillda and Finley to explain how salmon spawn for Lika Clark, 9, her brother Peter Ginter, 13, and their mother Jessica Ginter. By Greg Farrar

The humble buildings along a downtown street and the simple bridge across Issaquah Creek do not call out for attention, but the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is iconic nonetheless — so iconic, the hatchery and the salmon raised in manmade ponds serve as symbols for Issaquah and the region.

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Lake Sammamish kokanee fry release starts Earth Day celebration

April 10, 2012

Jessica Leguizamon watches kokanee salmon fry swim away from her Dixie cup into Laughing Jacobs Creek as her sister Sabrina waits her turn and their grandfather Gary Smith looks on during the 2011 release. County environmental scientist Hans Berge makes sure the procedure is done properly. By Greg Farrar

Conservationists plodded along rain-soaked creek banks last autumn to collect mature Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon in a soggy slog and pluck fish from a handful of streams to preserve the fading species.

The groups responsible for the salmon run restoration effort plan to return to Laughing Jacobs Creek on April 19 to release minuscule fry — a sign of success for the local, county, state and federal agencies entwined in the preservation program.

The annual kokanee fry release celebrates the ongoing push to restore the declining kokanee population in Lake Sammamish and launches Earth Day observances in the area. The community is invited to participate and learn about the salmon species — a landlocked cousin of sockeye — and the preservation program.

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Planners propose 11 projects to restore chinook, kokanee habitat

August 23, 2011

On the East Fork of Issaquah Creek at Third Avenue Northeast and Northeast Creek Way, plans call for the rockery bank wall to be removed and a log weir to be created. By Greg Farrar

Creeks leading to Lake Sammamish could serve as staging areas in the years ahead for a bold plan to restore salmon habitat.

The regional Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group has proposed 11 projects in Issaquah and Sammamish to restore habitat for chinook salmon — a species protected under the Endangered Species Act — and dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon.

The once-abundant kokanee has declined in recent decades, perhaps due to construction near creeks, increased predators, disease or changes in water quality. Scientists estimated the total 2010 run at 58 fish, including the 40 kokanee spawned at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery in a last-ditch effort to save the species.

The proposed projects range from colossal — such as rerouting Laughing Jacobs Creek through Lake Sammamish State Park — to small — adding plants in the Lewis Creek delta, for instance.

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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