Skip to content

Coming Home: Kokanee Salmon

October 2, 2013
Male and female Kokanee spawning

Male and female Kokanee spawning

They smell their way home: Kokanee Salmon return to the creek where they hatched to lay their own eggs. They are a land-locked Sockeye Salmon. Around 12,000 to 18,000 years ago, after the last ice age, Bonnington Falls and Coyote Rock blocked the salmons’ route to the Columbia River and to the ocean. But these fish survived. They now spend their entire adult lives in Kootenay Lake and unlike other sockeye salmon, they no longer go to the ocean. In their third year, they stop eating and transform into the Redfish you see in these photos. The first people who lived here named them Kokanee (Redfish) and must have feasted on the abundance these fish represented.

Now, there are spawning channels constructed to replace habitat lost to the fish in our own time. The fish return in their thousands in one of the most colourful and moving migrations on our continent. They struggle upstream and build and defend redds (nests) in the stream. Each fish enters the channel and spends about 12 days spawning. They then die and float back down the channel they fought so hard to ascend.

Kokanee Salmon are the keystone species of the ecosystem: bears, Osprey, eagles, gulls, mergansers, Mallards, American Dippers, squirrels, Ravens, Crows, Great Blue Herons other fish and others eat the fish, the eggs or the rotten fish. Without those fish, the forest, the lake and the creek would all be much nutritionally poorer.

I have been told that some first nations hold that those born during the migration “will always hold home in their hearts; know their dreams and will persist until they achieve those dreams.” I have paraphrased what I was told, and it was, after all told to me third hand. But we could all do worse than to hold those words in our hearts.

Fighting the current

Fighting the current

Swimming upstream

Swimming upstream

Three years later, they come home to spawn

Three years later, they come home to spawn

Keystone of the Ecosystem.

Keystone of the Ecosystem.

Thousands return to the creek where they hatched.

Thousands return to the creek where they hatched.

The struggle to make it up stream

The struggle to make it up stream

Against all odds

Against all odds

all photos and writing copyright Joanne Siderius 2013.

2 Comments
  1. Great photos, Joanne!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: