SAMMAMISH, Wash. — A small group of kokanee salmon was released in Lake Sammamish Wednesday evening as part of an ongoing effort to save the native species.
Members of the Snoqualmie Tribe released the group of about a hundred kokanee fry into the lake at sunset as part of a ceremonial release.
“Saving our salmon is important to the Snoqualmie people and the Pacific Northwest tribes," said Jolene Williams, a Snoqualmie Tribe councilmember.
The juvenile salmon have been kept in a safe environment and raised in the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.
The release was the first in Lake Sammamish since 2016. The first kokanee fry release in Lake Sammamish was in Spring 2010 and continued through 2016, but there haven’t been any fry available for release the past two years.
Last year, King County Executive Dow Constantine took emergency action to help preserve kokanee salmon after they returned to spawn in alarmingly low numbers in 2018.
Part of that emergency action included using specially designed traps to capture returning spawners for the hatchery, freezing male kokanee semen for future use, waiting longer to release the fish into Lake Sammamish as well as releasing kokanee into additional creeks in the watershed.
The kokanee fry released Wednesday is part of a strategy to restore the native kokanee population to healthy levels after decades of decline. Officials chose to do the release in October because the lake is cooler and better oxygenated.
Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group, along with members of the Snoqualmie Tribe, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and other local elected officials took part in the ceremonial release.
"The fish itself has a right to survive, these salmon and all the other species that are endangered in our region," said King County Executive Dow Constantine, prior to the fish release. "They have a right to continue to exist and we have an obligation to do whatever we can to make that possible."
There are plans to release thousands more kokanee salmon into Lake Sammamish, but it wasn't clear exactly when that will happen.
The Kokanee Work Group is a collaborative group that formed in 2007 to identify the causes for the decline of native kokanee in Lake Sammamish and find ways to replenish the population and re-establish a fishery for kokanee on the lake.
Video for this story was shot by KING 5 Photojournalist Mark Anderson.