Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon project update

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Dave Kyle, Lake Sammamish Kokanee Recovery project manager for Trout Unlimited,
carefully laid kokanee eggs in the incubator.
Photo by Jeff Jensen


By Jim Halliday

On Friday, January 25th, Dr. Jeff Jensen and I took part in placing kokanee salmon eggs in a remote site incubator (RSI) on Zackuse Creek, a small tributary of Lake Sammamish. Like many other small streams entering Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, Zackuse Creek was once home to a thriving population of kokanee. Many decades of environmental damage, including poor culvert design, had eliminated kokanee from this stream.

Issaquah hatchery biologist Travis Burnett holds
a mature male kokanee collected for hatchery spawning
by Roger Tabor, US Fish and Wildlife Service,
and Jeff Jensen, UW, Bothell. Photo by Jeff Jensen
The return of kokanee to Zackuse Creek is the culmination of a many-year collaborative effort by private landowners, the City of Sammamish, the Snoqualmie Tribe, King County, Trout Unlimited, and other participants of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group (KWG).

In the last six months, a blocking culvert was replaced, appropriate spawning habitat was restored, and native streamside vegetation was planted. 

The adult kokanee returning from today’s egg planting will find Zackuse Creek in much better condition than it has been for many decades.

Visiting dignitaries participating in placing the salmon eggs included Christie Malchow, Mayor of the City of Sammamish; and several of her staff; as well as Snoqualmie Tribal Elder, Lois Sweet Dorman; Tribal Council Member, Don Willoughby; and Tribal Member, McKenna Sweet Dorman. 

The small, black dots are their eyes
Photo by Jim Halliday
The fertilized eggs used in the remote site incubator come from spawning adults collected in Lake Sammamish streams and were nurtured in the Issaquah hatchery facility. 

After emerging from the gravel, the young salmon will immediately leave the incubator and migrate down Zackuse Creek to Lake Sammamish. 

Hopefully, they will grow into healthy adults and return to spawn in three or four years.

The jurisdictions, agencies, and nonprofit groups mentioned above have worked together to enhance the kokanee population in Lake Sammamish. 

Dr Jensen was an active participant and I was there to learn more about this project because it is pretty much what Dr Jensen envisions for our Lake Forest Park creeks (McAleer and Lyon). 

Dr. Jensen is Director of the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation’s (LFPSF) Return Kokanee Salmon to Our Streams Project. 

The foundation has received funding to begin such a program through King County Council Member Rod Dembowski’s office and Elizabeth Loudon of the King County Wastewater Grant Program.

Everyone participated in placing the kokanee salmon eggs, which had earlier been ceremonially blessed by Tribal Elder Lois Sweet Dorman and by the best wishes of all attendees.


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