Todd Wittwer California Guide #3408
Guiding Bass Lake, CA Since 2000

Bonded & Insured
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Kokanee salmon(Oncorhynchus nerka)
Physical Description The kokanee salmon is the land-locked version of the sockeye salmon and shares many of its characteristics, including a swift swimming style. Like the sockeye, the kokanee salmon is a slender fish with a blue-green back and top of the head, iridescent silver on the sides and white or silver on the belly. Juveniles develop some dark speckling on the back and oval parr marks on the sides. Kokanee salmon are the product of evolutionary changes in sockeye salmon that were prevented from migrating to the ocean, and thus adapted to surviving exclusively in freshwater lakes. These land-locked fish were faced with a more limited diet than the ocean-living sockeye, which has resulted in the smaller size of the kokanee.
Range Kokanee salmon are native to the freshwater lakes and rivers of the regions surrounding the Pacific Ocean stretching from Japan to Russia and California to Alaska. In North America, kokanee are found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho,  and British Columbia. The fish has been introduced to freshwater lakes in New Mexico, California and other western states as well as eastern states such as New York and Maine.
Habitat The kokanee is not an anadromous salmon, thus inhabits only freshwater lakes and tributaries. The fish prefers cool, well-oxygenated water with temperatures of 50 to 59 F. Kokanee are generally found near the surface of the water as long as the temperature remains in their preferred range or cooler. As the surface water warms, kokanee may choose deeper water.
Food Usage/Selection Kokanee feed primarily on plankton, but also eat insects, bottom organisms and larval fish.
Sporting Qualities Kokanee salmon are a popular sports fish. Their red, oily, high-quality flesh can be cooked in a variety of ways or canned. It is important to clean and ice the kokanee soon after the catch, because its high oil content can cause it to spoil quickly. One of the best methods for catching kokanee is trolling with small, brightly colored lures at the depths where the fish congregate. This can be near the surface during cooler months and in deep waters during warmer seasons.
Spawning Habits The migration of the kokanee salmon during spawning season is much more limited than that of the sockeye. Kokanee return to the site of their birth within their freshwater systems between August and November, normally along inlet streams of the lakes or shoreline gravel beds. Mature kokanee turn bright orange-red before the spawning season. The male displays more prominent coloration and develops a hooked jaw and humped back. The female selects a suitable nesting site, called a redd, and creates the egg bed by fanning or knocking gravel away with her tail. The male fends off intruders while the female works the redd. After the female lays up to 2,000 eggs in various batches, the male fertilizes them. The kokanee hatch in late winter and remain in the gravel feeding on the egg-sac nutrients. The fry will then emerge from the redds in the spring.
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