Catch up with DWR and the kokanee salmon spawn this fall

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — Leaf viewing is a popular custom for many during the fall season.  The beautiful colors mesmerize even the most impartial viewer. But, for those who want more radiant colors this upcoming autumn can look no further than the water. 

In September and October, kokanee salmon, which are a shade of silver most of the year, transition to a bright red before they travel up rivers and streams to spawn. Their red color makes the fish easy to spot in the waters where they lay their eggs. The males also acquire humped backs, hooked jaws and elongated teeth during their spawning transformation.

A kokanee salmon makes its way up Upper Huntington Creek.
A kokanee salmon makes its way up Upper Huntington Creek. Photo: Utah DWR // Morgan Jacobsen

While the fish are exciting to see, note that anglers are not allowed to keep any kokanee salmon caught anywhere in Utah from September 10 to November 30, during the spawning season. Visitors should also not disturb the spawning fish by wading into the water, trying to pick the fish up or allowing their dogs to chase the fish.

To celebrate the annual spawn, DWR is holding free viewing events at the following locations in Summit and Wasatch Counties.

Strawberry Reservoir (Wasatch County)

This viewing event will also be held Saturday, Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the U.S. Forest Service visitor center at Strawberry Reservoir.  

DWR biologists will be at the facility to show you the salmon and talk with you about the peculiar life cycle of the fish.

“Kokanee are easily visible in the river at the visitor center,” DWR Central Region Outreach Manager Scott Root said in a statement. “Once you arrive at the fish trap, you can ask questions about the salmon. If you want, you can even touch one.”

While the event is free, participants are asked to register for it in advance on Eventbrite. For more information about the event, call the DWR’s Springville office at 801-491-5678. There will also be a livestream of the kokanee salmon at the fish trap on the DWR YouTube channel later this month.

Jordanelle Reservoir and Provo River (Summit County)

The kokanee in Jordanelle Reservoir spawn in the Provo River, above the Rock Cliff recreation area. The Rock Cliff area has several trails that lead to the river’s edge and a bridge that crosses the river where you can view the salmon. Spawning usually runs through the month of September and peaks about the middle of the month.

Smith and Morehouse Reservoir (Summit County)

Kokanee salmon can usually be seen during their run in either Smith and Morehouse Creek or in Red Pine Creek. Late September through mid-October is the ideal viewing time.

Stateline Reservoir (Summit County)

Another great viewing opportunity, this reservoir  sits on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains, about a half-mile from the Utah-Wyoming state line. While the fish in this area are on average a bit smaller, they are plentiful. Best time to go is middle of September, which is peak spawning time.

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