Kokanee Salmon Run Up The Strawberry River
Each year in the beginning of September the Strawberry River turns bright red with spawning Kokanee Salmon. Viewing opportunities are available at the Strawberry visitors center via the “Discovery Trail” a long boardwalk that follows the river.
When we first arrived we headed down the west side of the trail searching for the blazing red Kokanee with no luck. So we continued to make our way to what is called the fish catch house. There in long concrete basins were hundreds of bright red Kokonee that were caught earlier in the day.
The rangers were catching the Kokanee, weighing, checking for spawning readiness, and sorting them between female and male fish. This was a huge treat for me; I have never seen anything like it. The rangers were great to answer all of our questions, and show us the differences between male and female fish. They brought fish up to the rails to allow an up close view.
We learned that the Kokanee usually spawn when they are four, and that they, just like the Pacific salmon die after they spawn. The rangers take the fish and milk them for their eggs, and sperm to help guarantee the survival of the species in Strawberry Reservoir. The rangers also gave us an example of how they check for spawn ready and pre-spawn fish.
The catch house was quite crowded but everyone was very courteous, and made room for the kids to get a front row seat for the activities. After we left the catch house we headed back to the visitor’s center where we crossed the road and went on the east side of the “Discovery Trail”. There was an overlook that hung out over the Strawberry River, and we were treated with a rare view of about a half dozen strong Kokanee heading upstream. They were great to watch, and so determined.
During the first week of October we were back in the area so we decided to stop and see the Kokanee. The ranger had told us on our last trip that they spawn better during stormy days. Since the last couple of days had been very rainy and overcast we thought we would check it out. Quite a difference a couple of weeks, and a storm or two made.
The river was full of the blazing red fish. However the fish are in their final stage of the spawn, in fact, there were several that had already died and were lining the river bottom. Even though the fish didn’t have the determination of a couple of weeks ago, it was still a great experience, and one I am sure the kids will not forget.
If you are searching for a fun family outdoor activity head on up to the Strawberry visitors center and check out the beautiful red Kokonee Salmon as they migrate up the Strawberry River.
Strawberry Visitor Center
Phone: (435) 548-2321
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