Young students release kokanee fry.

The Great Comeback of Lake Sammamish Kokanee

Kokanee salmon are swimming again in Lake Sammamish.

Today, 4th grade students from Blackwell Elementary School released thousands of kokanee fry into Ebright Creek, which flows into the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish. This creek is the site of a major restoration project by landowner Wally Pereyra, who removed a culvert and planted the streambank to create a healthy environment for salmon.

Kokanee salmon (Onchorhynchus nerka) are native to the Lake Sammamish watershed and are a landā€locked form of sockeye salmon. Kokanee look similar to sockeye. However, they are often much smaller, usually measuring 12 to 24 inches at maturity. Kokanee salmon live their entire life cycle in fresh water, unlike sockeye salmon, that migrate out to live in the ocean.

Snoqualmie Tribe drumming and songsOnce near extinction, it is estimated that there will be 15,000 salmon returning this fall to tributary streams that flow into Lake Sammamish, thanks to major ecological restoration by the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group.

The salmon release and celebration included remarks by King County Executive Dow Constantine, Sammamish Mayor Tom Odell, Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger, Snoqualmie Indian Tribe Chairwoman Shelley Burch, Richard Hannan from US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bob Everitt from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Mark Taylor from Trout Unlimited, as well as drumming and song from members of the Snoqualmie Tribe.