CEDAR CITY — During October, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists will harvest eggs from spawning kokanee salmon at Fish Lake for the first time, due to lower production at the usual kokanee egg-take sites (Strawberry and Flaming Gorge reservoirs) this year.
Each year, biologists and hatchery professionals work together to collect kokanee eggs from wild fish as they spawn at Flaming Gorge and Strawberry reservoirs during the fall. These eggs are then fertilized and the fish are grown in state fish hatcheries. Once they reach a certain size, the fish are stocked around the state to help increase the kokanee populations.
However, this year, biologists saw a decrease of the fish in their normal spawning areas. The limited success with this year’s kokanee spawning runs has also been observed across much of the western United States. It’s not just a Utah-specific problem, suggesting that the issues with Utah’s kokanee populations will require more extensive efforts.
“Kokanee salmon are a challenging fish to manage, partly because they are short-lived fish that die after spawning,” DWR Hatchery Coordinator Richard Hepworth said. “We’ve heard the frustrations from anglers regarding the poor kokanee fishing this past year in some areas of the state, and we’re trying to fix the problem by adding an additional location to our egg-collection efforts so we can meet our kokanee production target next year. This is one of the many ongoing efforts to help address recent kokanee salmon declines in the state.”
So far this fall, DWR personnel have only been able to collect about 50% of the eggs needed to restock Utah waterbodies with kokanee next year, and the kokanee runs at Flaming Gorge and Strawberry are tapering off. Throughout the next few weeks, DWR biologists will head to Fish Lake in an attempt to harvest the remaining eggs needed to restock Utah waters. Because this is the first time the DWR has attempted kokanee egg harvest at Fish Lake, the process may disrupt some of the viewing and fishing opportunities in and around Twin Creeks.
“We are asking the public to please be patient and understanding with the work that needs to be done in this area over the next few weeks,” DWR Aquatics Manager Mike Hadley said.
Kokanee salmon at Fish Lake typically start their fall spawning run around the first of October and seeing these brilliant red fish swim up Twin Creeks is a yearly highlight. Visitors should be aware that DWR biologists will be electrofishing in Twin Creeks, as well as netting at the inlet where it meets the lake, for the next few weeks.