See Bright Red Kokanee Salmon at Sheep Creek

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DWR Press Release

Manila — Whether you’re a visitor to the area, or a local who has attended for years, if you visit Sheep Creek to see kokanee salmon on Sept. 16, pack a lunch so you can spend the day enjoying everything the area has to offer.

The Division of Wildlife Resource’s annual Kokanee Salmon Day will be held at Sheep Creek on Sept. 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Last year, more than 400 people attended,” says Tonya Kieffer, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. “We’re hoping even more people will attend this year to watch nature paint Sheep Creek red.”

The event is free, and the viewing site is easy to get to. Sheep Creek is about six miles south of Manila. Kieffer is still determining the specific viewing site, but it will either be at the Scenic Byway turnout where Sheep Creek crosses under state Route 44, or near the campgrounds located along Sheep Creek. “Just watch for signs that we’ll post along SR 44,” she says. “You’ll be able to see the signs, no matter which direction on SR 44 you’re traveling.

“We’re hoping to see really good numbers of kokanee in their bright red spawning colors,” she says. “Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, red-tailed hawks, song birds, squirrels and a variety of other wildlife have greeted those who have attended the event in the past. If you have a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, make sure to bring it with you.”

Kieffer looks forward to the kokanee salmon spawning run every year. “The run is a great symbol of the changing seasons and an indication that autumn is here,” she says.

Kieffer says the colorful, landlocked salmon spawn in several Utah streams in September and October after spending about four years maturing in reservoirs downstream from where they spawn. “One of the most scenic kokanee runs takes place in Sheep Creek,” she says, “which is a tributary to Flaming Gorge Reservoir.”

DWR outreach staff and biologists will be at the site between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Display materials will be on hand that will help you see the kokanee and interpret their behavior. The biologists will also have a spotting scope available in case bighorn sheep visit the area, which they usually do during Kokanee Salmon Day.

“This is also a great time to take a scenic drive along the Sheep Creek Geological Loop,” Kieffer says, “in search of changing fall colors and other wildlife.”

Salmon in Utah

Utah’s salmon populations are a completely freshwater species known as kokanee salmon. They follow a lifecycle that’s similar to other salmon with one exception: instead of migrating from the Pacific Ocean to freshwater streams, kokanee reach freshwater streams by migrating to the streams from freshwater lakes and reservoirs.

While kokanee spawning runs are an excellent opportunity to discover Utah’s wildlife, please watch the salmon from the bank of Sheep Creek. As you approach the bank, move quietly to avoid disturbing the fish. Studies have documented that the kokanee are sensitive to disturbances on the bank.

Also, don’t wade in the stream. Wading in the stream can disrupt the spawning run, destroy the redds (egg nests) and cover the eggs with silt.

To further protect kokanee during their spawning season, anglers are reminded that they may not possess kokanee salmon in Utah from Sept. 10 through Nov. 30.

For more information, call the DWR’s Northeastern Region office at 435-781-9453.

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