Shasta Lake Kokanee salmon?
Its been over 40 years since Shasta Lake has contained populations of Kokanee salmon, but as of Monday May 13th, Shasta now has Kokanee salmon swimming in its emerald green waters once again. A coordinated effort between inland fisheries conservation groups and the Department of Fish and Wildlife finally came together resulting in a healthy plant of 87,000 fingerling Kokanee in the McCloud arm of Shasta Lake.
Regional CDFW Managers and Fisheries Biologists carefully reviewed the feasibility of planting Kokanee in Shasta Lake, and once the data pointed in a favorable direction for re introduction, the move was made to allocate the 87,000 Kokanee for Shasta Lake. Regional Biologist, Monty Currier has been working on this project for quite a few years, and after an extensive effort on all levels, this Kokanee plant project was implemented. Many other conservation organizations such as the Nor Cal Guides and Sportsmans Association, Kokanee Power, and the California Inland Fisheries Foundation played a role in supporting this program from its inception.
Monty Currier said the plant location was carefully considered and will give the Kokanee salmon the best chance of survival, hopefully placing them in the best position to spawn in the favorable river conditions that the McCloud River has to offer spawning salmonids. Its cool water and adequate gravel beds will surely be the best conditions for a successful spawn in a few years. It will take time to see just how well the Kokanee do in Shasta Lake, but they were said to be very plentiful back in the 70’s when they were last known to occupy Shasta Lake.
Kokanee salmon do very well in neighboring Whiskeytown and Trinity Lakes so it stands to reason that they will do very well in Shasta too. There is an abundance of Plankton blooms in the rich and fertile waters in Shasta and access to cold water year round is a bonus as well. The Kokanee salmon were hatched and raised as fertile fingerlings, and unlike the King salmon in Shasta Lake, are not triploid (infertile) fish. Its quite possible that the Kokanee in Shasta could take hold as the dominant salmon species in Shasta looking into the future.
Kokanee salmon are a very popular game fish here in the west and being a landlocked Sockeye salmon, they are believed by many to be the best eating salmon known to mankind. They have the potential to grow into a multi pound fish, and if their numbers continue to stay strong as they grow into mature adults, Shasta lake could turn into a premier destination for Kokanee anglers from all around. Whiskeytown Lake already draws a big crowd from anglers all over the country fish there annually for Kokanee. Shasta Lake is already touted as one of the top trout and bass fishing destinations in California. Having healthy populations of big Kokanee would surely throw Shasta Lake into a next level inland salmon fishing destination.
Time will tell how the Kokanee will do in Shasta Lake this time around, but its sure to have many Kokanee fishing enthusiasts sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to see what the next few years ahead holds for this potentially attractive fishing attraction to Shasta Lake.
Anglers across the west haven’t seen a whole lot of feel good stories in the world of fisheries management, but thanks to the efforts of CDFW and California fisheries conservation groups, this is a project that I think we can all feel good about, don’t you?