Kids run along with kokanee |

Kids run along with kokanee

Sarah Gonser

“Go swim around in Taylor Creek, fishboy.”

Three little boys holding bright red wooden fish ran over to an imaginary creek where, upon Gay Eitle’s instructions, their fish began a vicious territorial fight.

Eitle was demonstrating the lifeline of the Kokanee salmon. Over the next month, she will repeat this program to about 6,000 third and fourth graders at the U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center.

“They come in bus loads to see the fish spawn, and I help them understand the process with my wooden fish” Eitle said during her demonstration.

A few thousand people enjoyed sunshine and clear blue skies at the ninth annual Kokanee Salmon Festival Saturday and Sunday.

“The weather held up, there were tons of fish for people to see. It went really well this year,” said Michael St. Michel, visitor center director for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Management Unit.

There was plenty of food and activities such as Gyotaku, the ancient Japanese art of fish painting as taught by Lake Tahoe Basin naturalist, Jean Novicki.

The kokanee is a landlocked form of the red salmon and is native to the marine and fresh waters of the Pacific Northwest. It was first introduced to Lake Tahoe in 1944 when holding ponds at the old Tahoe City fish hatchery overflowed.

In October and November, when the kokanee is about three or four years old, it turns bright red and swims up Taylor Creek. The female deposits its eggs, the male fertilizes them, and they both die.

Next year, says St. Michel, will include most of the traditional events, plus some special activities to celebrate the 10th festival.

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