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Salmon wait for festival’s end to spawn

Patrick McCartney

With a flair for the anticlimactic, Lake Tahoe’s kokanee salmon waited until the conclusion of the Kokanee Salmon Festival Sunday to begin their annual spawning run up Taylor Creek.

Hours after the end of the eighth annual festival, hundreds of salmon fought their way up the South Shore stream to the spawning gravels where they were born three and four years ago.

During the weekend festival, spectators who came to witness the end of the salmons’ poignant life cycle – when they spawn and then die – found only a few of the fish in the creek’s shallow waters.

But by Monday morning, hundreds of the landlocked sockeye salmon had entered the creek.

“There are hundreds in the stream now, and there may be thousands by this weekend,” said fisheries biologist Jeff Reiner of the U.S. Forest Service. “This weekend will be real nice.”

The beginning of the run is one of the latest on record at Taylor Creek, and suggests that the salmon may still be spawning into November.

Reiner said the timing of the salmon’s spawning run had little to do with their shyness or fear of crowds at the two-day event.

“As long as people stay out of the water and don’t bring dogs with them, the kokanee don’t seem to be affected,” Reiner said. “If there are just a few salmon, they may seek shelter, but when there are so many salmon, so long as people are respectful, they’re not bothered.”

Instead, Reiner said the salmon were probably responding to cooler weather that lowered the water temperature. Then again, the late run might be related to the timing of the run three years ago, when most of this year’s spawning fish were born.


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