See Kokanee Salmon at Sheep Creek

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Kokanee Salmon Day set for Sep. 20

Kokanee salmon in Sheep Creek. - Photo by Ron Stewart, Utah Division of Wildlife ResourcesIf you visit Sheep Creek to see kokanee salmon on Sep. 20, make sure and bring binoculars or a spotting scope with you. You might see some bighorn sheep too!

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resource’s annual Kokanee Salmon Day will be held Sep. 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is free, and the viewing site is easy to get to. Sheep Creek is about six miles south of Manila. The viewing site is at the Scenic Byway turnout where Sheep Creek crosses under SR–44.

“We seem to always have some other wildlife besides the bright red kokanee to watch,” says Ron Stewart, regional conservation outreach manager. “Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, red-tailed hawks, song birds, squirrels and a variety of other wildlife greeted visitors [who attended Kokanee Salmon Day] last year.

“We picked kokanee salmon as a species to highlight because they are very visible; they turn red when they spawn, “Stewart says. “These colorful and unusual fish run or spawn in several Utah streams in September and October after spending about four years maturing in downstream reservoirs. One of the most scenic kokanee runs takes place in Sheep Creek, which is a tributary to Flaming Gorge.”

DWR biologists will be at the site between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Display materials will be available that will help you see the kokanee and interpret their behavior. The biologists will also have a spotting scope in case bighorn sheep visit the area, which they usually do during Kokanee Salmon Day.

Salmon in Utah

Utah’s salmon populations are a completely freshwater species known as kokanee salmon. They follow a similar life-cycle to other salmon except instead of migrating from the Pacific Ocean to freshwater streams, kokanee reach freshwater streams by migrating to the streams from freshwater lakes and reservoirs.

While kokanee spawning runs are an excellent opportunity to discover Utah’s wildlife, please watch the salmon from the bank of Sheep Creek. As you approach the bank, move quietly to avoid disturbing the fish. Studies have documented that the kokanee are sensitive to disturbances on the bank.

Also, don’t wade in the stream. Wading in the stream can disrupt the spawning run, destroy the redds (egg nests) and cover the eggs with silt.