Gone Fishin’: Kokanee Salmon Festival this weekend in South Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Gone Fishin’: Kokanee Salmon Festival this weekend in South Tahoe

Each fall Kokanee salmon (Oncorhyncus nerka) make their annual run out of lakes and into the streams to spawn.

The Kokanee is a landlocked sockeye salmon. The typical coloration of dark blue black and the silvery sides give way during spawning season to a deep red. The lower jaw of the male develops a characteristic hook common to Pacific salmon.

Last weekend on a trip we witnessed many Kokanee in their traditional spawning colors beginning the trek up the inlet streams to the lake that we were fishing.

The United States Forest Service South Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit sponsors a Kokanee Festival each year. This year the event is scheduled to take place this coming weekend of Oct. 6-7. The festival is held at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center located three miles north of the “Y” in South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89, nearby and across from the Fallen Leaf Lake turnout.

The Festival has family activities such as fish painting, collectible T-shirts, special programs in the Amphitheater, and a chance to meet “Sammy Salmon” and Smokey Bear. Forest Service personnel will also be on hand to answer questions about the annual spawn and provide informative creek-side talks. Wildlife Care will have their food booth and annual salmon barbecue.

The activities begin each day at 10 a.m. and run through 4:30 p.m. On Sunday, the morning events will include a 1/2 K Kids Tadpole Trot, 5K and 10K Salmon Run, and a Half-Marathon Run.

This is a great event for children to learn about the life cycle of one of the most numerous gamefish that inhabits our local lakes and reservoirs. The male and female salmon turn red and swim upstream to lay and fertilize their eggs in the rocky soil of Taylor Creek. They then defend their nests or “Redds” until they die. Their decaying bodies provide nutrients throughout the winter for the Kokanee Salmon eggs as they hatch and turn into “fry,” and then fingerlings.

This spawning activity usually begins the first part of October and typically runs approximately four to five weeks. Eggs taken from the salmon that spawn in Taylor Creek are raised and planted by Project Kokanee in many lakes in California including many of our local waters. I watch these fish go through the spawning ritual each year and am always fascinated.

What is particularly nice about the location at Taylor Creek is the recently renovated Stream Profile Chamber. This viewing chamber allows the public to get a close up view of what is going on underwater.

Additional information on the Festival and its events can be obtained from the Taylor Creek Visitor Center by telephoning (530) 573-2674 or the main office for the Forest Service at (530) 573-2600. This is a great family outing if you have young children.


Boca – (8,591 ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair and improving. It is very low. Water is being released at 61 CFS and 57 CFS is coming into the lake. In spite of the low water levels anglers are still having success. Anglers near the dam are still catching fish. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Boats that can still be launched are having some success. Most were using a combination of flashers and a nightcrawler or minnow imitating lure. Kokanee fishing is fair to good for those experienced anglers that can get a boat in the water. Fly fishermen near the inlet have experienced fair to good action early and late. Nymphs and streamers have accounted for most of the fish caught recently. When it calms down, midges are very productive.

Donner Lake – Fishing has been fair to good. Anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had fair to good success. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow imitating lures have had fair success.

Lake Tahoe – (Elevation 6224.68) Fishing has been good for mackinaw. Most fish are in the five to seven pound range. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair overall. No fishing is also allowed within 300 ft. of these tributaries.

Martis Lake – (Martis is restricted to artificial lures with barbless hooks. Zero fish may be bagged or possessed) Fishing has been fair. Most activity has been early and late with blood midges and callibaetis imitations. Most anglers are using nymphs such as the Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, Damselfly imitations or the A.P. Streamers that imitate small fish, and woolly buggers are also good choices. For surface activity, patterns such as the Quigley Cripple, Martis Midge, Parachute Adams, and Griffith’s Knat are good choices.

Little Truckee River – (This area between Stampede Reservoir downstream to Boca Reservoir is now subject to artificial barbless lures with a two fish bag limit of fish 14 inches maximum) – (57 cubic feet per second) Fishing here has been fair in the stretch between Stampede and Boca. Fishing has been fair near the inlet area of the Little Truckee into Boca reservoir. Nymphs and streamers are still the first choice if there are no fish on the surface.

Prosser – (7,348 ac. ft.) Prosser has been fishing fair and improving. Water is at its lowest fall point in some time. Fishing here is mostly with nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Fly fishermen near the inlets have taken a few fish mostly on nymphs and streamers.

Stampede – (160,568 ac. ft.) Stampede is fair to good. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Topliners have fair to good success for kokanee salmon. Most use a flasher of some sort and a kokanee bug or wedding ring with a piece of white corn. Kokanee starting to school. Some are already in spawning mode. There is still good trout action, mostly subsurface, with nymphs such as the pheasant tail and the bird’s nest. There is some good surface activity early and late as well. Streamers are also working.

Truckee River – The release from the dam at Tahoe City is 325 cubic feet per second and near Truckee it is running at 325 cubic feet per second. Fishing has been fair throughout the river. Seasoned anglers have been doing well. Prince nymphs, Bird’s nests and pheasant tail nymphs have produced some fish as well as streamers. Dries include a parachute Adams, Quigley Cripples and an E/C Caddis. The key is to go small this time of year. Also hoppers during the day can still work.

Other Waters – Jackson Meadows has been fishing well. Davis and Frenchman lakes have improved this past week. Cooler nighttime temperatures are beginning to put fish on the bite. Great fall fishing is just around the corner.

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