Oktoberfest celebration brings out salmon, spectators
People may have been in as much of a mood to frolic Sunday as the kokanee salmon swimming up from Lake Tahoe to Taylor Creek.
Motorists jammed Highway 89 that afternoon from the Oktoberfest at Camp Richardson Resort to the entrance of the U.S. Forest Service’s visitor center near the creek for the 17th annual Kokanee Festival.
“I think we had our busiest Saturday ever,” said Mike St. Michel of the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
Don Evans noticed the crowds appeared larger on a picture-perfect day on the South Shore.
“It hit me when we came in, and they ran out of salmon. This isn’t the small, local community event it once was,” said Evans, who brought his family of four for a day at the stream. Two-year-old Sammy had his eye on a school of fish in the deeper water across the stream and began to lift up his pant. Evans had to remind his inquisitive son to stay in the gravel.
There’s something about the children’s fascination with the red, hooked-jaw beasts. Every fall, the fish return to the stream, mate and die. Many youngsters and young-at-heart adults wondered why the fish die and how far up the stream they go.
Jeff Reiner, a LTBMU biologist on hand, said most go up to the Fallen Leaf Lake dam. Some have made it through to the lake, but the Forest Service wants to leave that for the cutthroat trout. A few Kokanee have been known to reach the Glen Alpine stream.
Forest Service workers put up a barrier called a weir on the stream near the bridge to restrict some of the fish from going up stream. Too many results in the nests getting dug up.
Reiner anticipated “a good run,” with an estimated 40,000 fish turning out in October. The numbers through the years have fluctuated from 200 to 80,000.
For this year, the first wave of males looking a little larger than usual. Reiner said he was unsure whether the females are more apt to choose the larger males, except in relation to the territory they take up. He had also noticed with the full moon out that the fish have been more active.
Dee Gonzalez thought it was a shame some of the males never know the joy of reproduction. She and her husband, Emilio, have gone to the event in the four years of living in Tahoe. The Douglas High School teachers put out their beach chairs next to the creek to watch the festivities. Many who come to watch bring wine, cheese and bread, adding comfort and allure to the South Shore event.