More kokanee return as community works to restore species

December 4, 2012

Homeowner funds $175,000 culvert project

Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon swim Nov. 27 in the restored stretch of Ebright Creek at Wally Pereyra’s property in the 100 block of East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast. By Greg Farrar

Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon — a landlocked cousin of sockeye and a species noted for distinctive red coloration — dwindled in recent decades, since before Wally Pereyra moved into a house along Ebright Creek in 1973.

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Darigold donates water for Lake Sammamish kokanee

November 6, 2012

Darigold joined the effort in recent weeks to preserve dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery announced Oct. 26.

The downtown Issaquah dairy is donating water from a well to the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer for the hatchery to use in the ongoing effort to restore kokanee. The contribution from Darigold should save the hatchery about $50,000 over the program’s anticipated lifespan through 2021.

Experts said the Darigold water is ideal for kokanee due to consistent quality and temperature. Using the water allows hatchery teams to prevent the fish from imprinting on Issaquah Creek water, and instead allows fry to imprint on Ebright, Laughing Jacobs and Lewis creeks.

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Kokanee fun run is Oct. 20 at Lake Sammamish State Park

October 2, 2012

On Oct. 20, the Bellevue-Issaquah Chapter of Trout Unlimited is presenting the inaugural Run with the Kokanee at Lake Sammamish State Park.

Parking for this event is available near the main gate, at 2000 N.W. Sammamish Road, and will require a $10 fee or a Washington State Parks Discover Pass.

Those registering for either the 5k or 10k walk/run can save $10 on the entry fee when registering for the race on or before Oct. 7. Those entering the day of the race will be charged $40 and $45, respectively. Those wishing to enter early online may do so at www.tu-bi.org.

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Tribal tales from a kokanee salmon, as told to Dallas Cross

October 2, 2012

Dallas Cross

Before the Ice Age my ancestral sockeye salmon bearing our tribal name, oncorhynchus nerka, regularly came from the ocean to Lake Sammamish to find mates and reproduce in its streams. As it got colder, a huge glacier cut off the escape of the tribe to Puget Sound. Being trapped, we had to adapt to living our entire lives in fresh water.

It was difficult at first, but soon we were feeding on the small daphnia or water fleas living in the lake. Because daphnia are not as big as krill in the ocean, our size got smaller. Our tribe enjoyed less swimming distance for a lifecycle and we were glad not to be eaten by big salt-water fish and seals. We became land-locked in the lake and its streams. We adapted and survived.

We did retain some traditions of our sea-run ancestors, such as only living three to five years, turning red to spawn, running up streams to lay and fertilize our eggs, and dying afterward. Our short life spans allowed us to make rapid genetic changes in response to climate changes and food availability.

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Lake Sammamish kokanee need long-term fix

September 25, 2012

Dallas Cross

Oncorhynchus nerka, our kokanee salmon in Lake Sammamish, is a threatened native species with greatly reduced numbers spawning in streams feeding the lake.

Most of their historical spawning areas are now denied by barriers or degraded as a result of land development.

Until recently, Lake Sammamish kokanee have not been included with other salmon species in conservation measures and have been low in profile for public concern.

For the past several years, an effort of the environmentally concerned and governmental communities adjacent to Lake Sammamish have participated in defining the problem, setting goals and taking action to address the threatened loss of the kokanee.

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Issaquah Salmon Hatchery celebrates 75 years

September 4, 2012

See salmon, Snoqualmie carver at open house

Members of Girl Scout Troop 200 and some Canadian Girl Scout guests sit at the edge of one of the fish ponds Oct. 3, 1970, during a tour of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery given by Mayor Keith Hansen (far left) during the first Salmon Festival. File

Salmon reached the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery late last month, but the arrival is not the only celebration at the downtown landmark.

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Press Editorial

September 4, 2012

Healthy ecosystem supports salmon

Last week, the first returning salmon of 2012 were seen at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery where they have come home to spawn. More will follow in the fall months ahead, crowding the many tributaries that feed into Lake Sammamish.

A healthy return of the Northwest’s favorite fish is an important symbol of the health of our streams, lakes and Puget Sound ecosystems.

While some residents are crying about the imposition of tough city laws meant to strengthen the salmon’s habitat — and our own — the fact remains that Issaquah has embraced its role as watershed steward. Our waterways are healthier today than 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

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Volunteers needed to report spawning kokanee salmon

August 28, 2012

The Kokanee Work Group needs volunteers to report spawning kokanee salmon this fall in creeks feeding Lake Sammamish.

Volunteers will be asked to survey creek sections once a week during the 2012-13 spawning season from October through January. Trout Unlimited of Bellevue-Issaquah is registering volunteers wishing to participate.

Fish biologist Hans Berge will make a presentation at a public meeting of Trout Unlimited at the Issaquah Brewhouse at 7 p.m. Sept. 12. He will discuss plans and actions to restore the threatened kokanee population in Lake Sammamish.

He will also be available to answer questions about counting spawners and the training to be offered in late September.

Where have all the kokanee salmon gone?

July 17, 2012

Dallas Cross

For 5 million years, an ancient class of salmon has been swimming in lakes and streams once connected to the Pacific Ocean. They are kokanee, a small species of freshwater salmon.

Kokanee live in Lake Sammamish and spawn in its creeks. Their scientific name is Oncorhynchus nerka. It is a combination of hooked-nose in Latin together with a complex, Latin-Polish name for red salmon. They share the nerka name with their ancestral, but genetically distinct, sockeye salmon. The name, kokanee, comes from the Okanagan-Salish language and means red fish.

Lake Sammamish kokanee embrace their red fish name when they return in November through January to their birth creeks to spawn. In the lake, they are mostly silver with small scales, not spotted like trout, and have a distinctively forked tail. At spawning time, the bodies of males turn a bright red with green heads and a hooked nose. The females’ bodies turn red with a faint green stripe.

Spawning pairs seek gravel beds in the same streams where they were hatched. In these streams, they move gravel around making redds in which the female lays eggs to be fertilized by the ever-attendant male. The eggs incubate in the gravel redds for three to four months during which an alevin with an egg sac forms. Alevin then absorb the sac and mature into kokanee fry. The fry wait for a stream temperature of about 52 degrees and a dark night to leave their gravel beds and make a run downstream to the lake.

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FISH hosts Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon lecture

May 15, 2012

Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is hosting U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists and a state Department of Fish and Wildlife manager to discuss the Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon recovery program May 23.

The event starts at 6 p.m. at the Watershed Science Center at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, 125 W. Sunset Way. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The event includes U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists Jeff Chan and Roger Tabor, plus state Department of Fish & Wildlife Region 4 Hatchery Manager Doug Hatfield.

Participants can learn about the Lake Sammamish kokanee and the status of the population from the federal biologists. Hatfield plans to cover the details of the innovative effort going on at the hatchery to preserve the species.

FISH, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to the preservation of the historic hatchery through educational programs in school classrooms and at the hatchery.

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