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Kokanee salmon ready to put on a show

Kokanee Salmon at egg taking facility at Strawberry Reservoir
Kokanee Salmon at egg taking facility at Strawberry Reservoir

Best places to see bright-red salmon this fall

Trees aren't the only parts of Utah that turn a brilliant shade of red in the fall: so do kokanee salmon.

In September, kokanee-which are a shade of silver most of the year-change to a fluorescent red prior to traveling up rivers and streams to spawn. Their bright-red color makes the salmon easy to spot in the waters where they spawn.

To celebrate the annual spawn, the Division of Wildlife Resources is holding free viewing events at four locations in Utah. If you'd like to see kokanee on your own, two additional sites are great places to visit.

Free viewing events

Sept. 15

North-central Utah

Jordanelle Reservoir

This will be the first year a kokanee salmon viewing event has been held at the Rock Cliff Recreation Area at Jordanelle Reservoir. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you attend, you'll see bright-red salmon make their way up the Provo River.

The Rock Cliff Recreation Area is on the eastern tip of Jordanelle Reservoir, two miles west of Francis.

Strawberry Reservoir

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) visitor center at Strawberry Reservoir. The visitor center is along U.S. Highway 40, about 20 miles southeast of Heber City.

If you attend the event, you'll see some salmon in the Strawberry River next to the visitor center. But, if you walk to the fish trap and egg-taking facility behind the visitor center, you'll see hundreds of the bright-red fish.

DWR biologists will be available at the facility to show you the salmon and talk with you about the peculiar life cycle of the fish.

"Kokanee are easily visible in the river at the visitor center," says Scott Root, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. "Once you arrive at the fish trap, you can ask questions about the salmon. If you want, you can even touch one."

If you can't attend the Sept. 15 event, Root says salmon should be visible in the Strawberry River, and other tributaries to Strawberry, from now until the first part of October.

For more information about either event, call the DWR's Central Region office at 801-491-5678.

Northeastern Utah

Sheep Creek

Sheep Creek, a tributary to Flaming Gorge Reservoir, is about six miles south of Manila. Depending on where the salmon are located, the event will be held either at the Scenic Byway turnout where Sheep Creek crosses under state Route 44, or near the campgrounds located along Sheep Creek. "Just watch for signs that we'll post along SR 44," says Tonya Kieffer-Selby, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. "You'll be able to see the signs, no matter which direction on SR 44 you're traveling."

Kieffer-Selby says you should be able to see really good numbers of kokanee in their bright-red spawning colors. "Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, red-tailed hawks, song birds, squirrels and a variety of other wildlife have greeted those who have attended the event in the past," she says. "If you have a pair of binoculars, a camera or a spotting scope, make sure to bring it with you."

DWR outreach staff and biologists will be at the site between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Display materials will be on hand that will help you see the kokanee and interpret their behavior. The biologists will also have a spotting scope available in case bighorn sheep visit the area, which they usually do during Kokanee Salmon Day.

For more information, call the DWRs Northeastern Region office at 435-781-9453.

Oct. 9

East-central Utah

Electric Lake

Upper Huntington Creek and Boulger Creek are two major tributaries to Electric Lake where kokanee salmon may spawn each year. These creeks are typically shallow, making the bright-red salmon easy to see.

DWR biologists and outreach staff are hosting a viewing event at Electric Lake on Oct. 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. Please meet them at the boat ramp on the north end of the reservoir, where they'll answer your questions and direct you to the best areas to see the salmon.

"The annual kokanee salmon spawn is a special wildlife viewing opportunity that many residents of east-central Utah aren't aware of," says Morgan Jacobsen, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. "We hope wildlife enthusiasts will come enjoy the fall colors at Electric Lake, including the red salmon."

Electric Lake is 54 miles west of Price and 22 miles east of Fairview, along Highway 264 in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. If you have questions about the event, call the DWR's Southeastern Region office at 435-613-3707.

See salmon on your own

Two places in northern and southern Utah are great places to see salmon on your own.

Northern Utah

Causey Reservoir

The best place to see kokanee at Causey Reservoir is the Right Hand Fork of the Ogden River. You can paddle to the spot after launching a kayak or canoe on the reservoir, or you can hike to the spot from the Skull Crack trailhead on the south side of the reservoir. After leaving the trailhead, hike about two miles to the viewing site. Be aware that rattlesnake sightings are common along the trail.

"If you paddle to the viewing site," says DWR Regional Conservation Outreach Manager Phil Douglass, "make sure you wear shoes that you don't mind getting a little muddy. You'll have to leave your kayak or canoe, and do a small bit of walking, to reach the site."

Douglass says the kokanee spawn starts in early September and reaches its peak by the middle of the month. "About 10 days after reaching its peak," he says, "the spawn ends."

Causey Reservoir is 11 miles east of Huntsville. For more information, call the DWR's Northern Region office at 801-476-2740.

South-central Utah

Fish Lake

Twin Creeks is the best tributary at the lake to visit. The stream is located near the Fish Lake Lodge on the lake's west side. "Good parking is available in a paved parking lot just north of Twin Creeks," says Phil Tuttle, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. "The best time to see salmon is from about mid-September through October."

Fish Lake is about 17 miles northeast of Koosharem. For more information, call the DWR's Southern Region office at 435-865-6100.