Spawning Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon Decline
"The Fish Journal" Issaquah Press, Published February 4, 2009

By Dallas Cross

A census of the number of remaining kokanee salmon on their way to spawning in creeks feeding Lake Sammamish has been announced. The total number of spawning adult kokanee was ninety, significantly less than the 147 counted last year and 713 counted two years ago. The counts were made in Lewis Creek, Laughing Jacobs Creek, Pine Lake and Ebright Creek, the last known spawning creeks for the remaining runs of the threatened species.

Counting was conducted by members of the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and King County Dept of Natural Resources during the past month. Complicating the possible loss of this native fish to the Lake Sammamish region, the Washington Fish and Wildlife did not trap sufficient numbers of spawning kokanee to implement a promised egg hatching and fry rearing program before the recent, severe floods.

Because of the dramatic decline in returning kokanee salmon to Lake Sammamish and the probability that any eggs laid may be destroyed in recent floods, Trout Unlimited will be legally seeking an overdue response from the US Department of Fish and Wildlife to a 18-month old petition to declare the species endangered or threatened. They may also submit a request to have the kokanee given an emergency listing to trigger an immediate and high priority response for protection.

The Bellevue-Issaquah chapter of Trout Unlimited plans to continue monitoring kokanee salmon in Lake Sammamish in different ways: One is to partner with the shop class of Woodinville High School to repair their fry counting trap and to fabricate new traps. The chapter plans to monitor return of any recently hatched fry returning to the lake in Lewis, Ebright and Laughing Jacobs Creek in April and May. They are seeking volunteers to assist in the counting from youth or adult groups or individuals.

The second monitoring effort will be to conduct a survey of fish populations in Lake Sammamish and electronically tag adult kokanee in order to monitor their activity and spawning behavior. The hope is to also determine whether the fish use the gravel shore areas in the lake for alternative or regular spawning. To help this effort the Bellevue-Issaquah Chapter of Trout Unlimited has initiated an “Adopt a Salmon” program to raise funds to buy costly acoustic tags.

Two levels of adoption are offered. The $100 donation level will adopt a salmon, receive a photo of it and receive updates on the monitored activity of the kokanee. For a $300 donation the sponsor will be able to get all of the above and actually participate in the capture and tagging of their fish on Lake Sammamish.

Those wishing to adopt a kokanee or participate in the census of returning kokanee fry are asked to contact the kokanee chairman, Mark Taylor, at emtbckt@msn.com.


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