Kokanee salmon will have people seeing red, but in a good way. The bright fish move out of Idaho's lakes and into clear streams where you can see the fish preparing to spawn.
You don't even have to leave the Treasure Valley to check them out. The fish were recently stocked in Boise's MK Nature Center viewing ponds, and you can see their amazing color through the glass.
Kokanee are a land-locked version of the anadromous sockeye salmon and cousins to Idaho's most endangered fish.
Sockeye migrate to the ocean and back, while kokanee spend most of their lives in lakes and then venture upstream to spawn, going from their normally silvery appearance to crimson with a green head, a hooked jaw and humped back.
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According to Idaho Fish and Game, kokanee were planted in Idaho reservoirs and lakes from Washington state in the 1930s and 40s. F&G has introduced them into many lakes and reservoirs around Idaho including: Lake Pend Oreille, Lake Coeur d'Alene, Priest Lake, Dworshak Reservoir, Payette Lake, Warm Lake, Lucky Peak, Arrowrock Reservoir, Anderson Ranch Reservoir, Deadwood Reservoir, Island Park Reservoir and Ririe Reservoir.
Kokanee can grow to 18 inches, but the average Idaho kokanee is 10-to-14 inches long. Kokanee spend much of their lives eating plankton and aquatic insects, Immature kokanee are silver to blue (hence the north Idaho name "blueback") with a "football" shaped body. Like their saltwater cousins, their meat is pink to red and is highly prized for its rich flavor.
Kokanee reach maturity and spawn after two to four years - depending on how fast they grow. Like other salmon, kokanee die after spawning, providing a rich food source from everything from birds to bears to insect. Spawning kokanee attract large groups of bald eagles in North Idaho, which provides people with great opportunities to see an amazing display of wildlife.
Early spawning kokanee are usually visible in Mores Creek, the Middle Fork Boise, South Fork Boise and Deadwood River in September. Some fish have even been known to wash down the Boise River in town. Murky water in many Southwest Idaho rivers may hamper viewing this fall.
Early spawners can also be seen in tributaries to Island Park, Palisades and Ririe Reservoirs in the South East Region.