The shift to Fish Lake came as Utah’s usual kokanee salmon sites, like Strawberry and Flaming Gorge Reservoirs, saw decreased production of eggs.
Biologists and hatchery professionals reportedly collaborate every year to collect kokanee eggs from wild fish as they spawn in the fall. These eggs are then fertilized and the fish are grown in state fish hatcheries, officials say.
Once the fish reach a certain size, they are “stocked around the state” to help increase the kokanee populations, a release states.
This year, however, biologists saw lowered production of eggs from kokanees — a pattern that is reportedly common throughout the western United States. DWR says that this is likely due to drought conditions and low water levels.
Until Fish Lake, DWR personnel had only been able to collect around half of the eggs needed to restock Utah waterbodies with kokanee next year, officials say. For the first time ever, DWR biologists will utilize Fish Lake in an attempt to harvest the remaining eggs needed to restock Utah’s kokanees.
“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.”
While they did not meet their official statewide quota, DWR professionals were successful in their harvest, bringing in over 650,000 fertilized eggs from Fish Lake.
The backup location proved to be instrumental in this year’s kokanee harvest, and fortunately, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks had 400,000 excess eggs that they were willing to give to help Utah make up the difference.
“A huge thanks to biologists, hatchery staff, managers and partner agencies such as Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their help meeting Utah’s statewide kokanee needs,” DWR officials said.
Kokanee salmon at Fish Lake typically start their fall spawning run near the beginning of October. DWR officials say seeing these brilliant red fish swim up Twin Creeks is a yearly highlight.