Kokanee salmon ready for colorful spawn

A kokanee salmon swims up Upper Huntington Creek during its annual spawning run. Interested viewers can see the fish near Electric Lake between early September and the end of October. (Photo courtesy of the Utah DWR)

SALT LAKE CITY — Fall will soon be here and the leaves on trees will begin to change colors. The fall kokanee salmon run is here too and the males turn a brilliant shade of red.

At summer’s end, when kokanee undergo the transformation from sleek silver to fluorescent red, the males acquire humped backs, hooked jaws and elongated teeth. This is when the feisty fish bite and jostle as they embark on the most important (and final!) mission of their lives, the annual spawn.

During this fall journey, the water is often so clear that the fish look like they are suspended in air. Their bright-red color makes the salmon easy to spot in the waters where they spawn.

One of the locations to view the spawn activities is on the north end of Electric Lake. In fact, Upper Huntington Creek and Boulger Creek are two major tributaries to Electric Lake where kokanee salmon may spawn each year. These creeks are typically shallow, making the bright-red salmon easy to see.

Salmon run up both creeks starting in early September, and the spawning season lasts until the end of October. (There are both early-spawning and late-spawning fish in the lake, so the viewing opportunities last quite a while.)

Both creeks are highly accessible at the pull-off on the north end of the lake that runs to the boat ramp. Upper Huntington Creek runs several miles north, right along Highway 96. There are many small pull-offs, and the creek is very close to the road.

“The annual kokanee salmon spawn is a special wildlife viewing opportunity that many residents of east-central Utah aren’t aware of,” says Morgan Jacobsen, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. “We hope wildlife enthusiasts will come enjoy the fall colors at Electric Lake, including the red salmon.”

Electric Lake is 54 miles west of Price and 22 miles east of Fairview, along Highway 264 in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Obey the law, be ethical

Utah law protects salmon populations during the fall. Anglers who catch a kokanee salmon anywhere in Utah, from Sept. 10 to Nov. 30, 2019, must release it.

It has also been reported that some people will pick up the fish for photo opportunities or let their dogs loose to chase the fish in the streams. The DWR frowns on those activities and asks that people don’t do that.

The salmon are just trying to get upstream and reproduce. Be ethical and don’t interrupt their journey. Viewers will still have plenty of great photo and video opportunities.