Kokanee Salmon of Cascade Lake

The story of Kokanee salmon within Cascade Lake in Moran State Park.

The hard work of many made bringing a sustainable Kokanee salmon hatchery to Cascade Lake possible.

Among the activities available to visitors of Moran State Park, fishing is high on the list for many avid outdoorsmen. Though there are several species of fish within the lake, Kokanee salmon are coveted as one of the best catches. Despite this, Kokanee salmon were not always part of the Cascade Lake environment.

Kokanee salmon were introduced and maintained within Cascade Lake sporadically throughout the 1900s but starting in 2001, Friends of Moran, Moran State Park, and WA Department of Fish and Wildlife came together to create the Moran Creek Hatchery. The project was designed with the intention of creating a sustainable population of Kokanee Salmon within Cascade and Mountain Lake. Every fall, eggs are placed in the hatchery where they grow, become fish fries, and are eventually released into Moran Creek. In 2007, the first Kokanee eggs were brought to the hatchery and the project officially began.

Unlike most variety of salmon, Kokanee salmon are not anadromous, meaning they do not travel between fresh and salt water to spawn. Kokanee salmon are a landlocked descendant of Sockeye salmon and complete their entire life cycle in freshwater. The Kokanee migrate from Cascade or Mountain Lake to Moran Creek to spawn. The creek provides a safe, cold nursery for the newly hatched Kokanee until they are old enough to join the rest of the population in the lakes. Kokanee Salmon, like many other fish, experience natal homing meaning they return to spawn in the place they hatched or were released. It's suggested that the salmon's sense of smell is what allows them to navigate back to the stream they began in. This natal homing means that the salmon will always spawn where they were born, creating a sustainable population in the lakes of Moran. The evidence that this program is succeeding can be seen from as early as October to late November when adult Kokanee are found swimming up Moran Creek to spawn in the cold, calm waters upstream.


Moran Creek spawning
This video shows the Kokanee population making their way up Moran Creek to spawn. ~ Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPiPpWEJXvI&ab_channel=JerryEisner ~ Creator: Jerry Eisner
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