Young Kokanee


Back greenish-blue with faint speckling. The sides and belly are silvery and scales slip easily when handling. No distinct spotting on dorsal fin or tail as in the rainbow. Anal fin rays generally number 14 to 16. During spawning in the fall, skin becomes leathery and turns dark red to bright scarlet and the head turns dusky green.


Spawning Kokanee Salmon


Male & Female Kokanee

During the spawning period male kokanee turn a bright red on the back with reddish to olive colored sides. The spawning habits of kokanee are like other true salmon and all adult fish die after spawning which occurs in their third or fourth year. Female kokanee turn a lighter red in color and retain a body shape similar to a trout, while the male develops a large hooked snout with many irregular teeth, a hump back, and a mask-like green head.


Kokanee are the land-locked form of sockeye salmon. Because they never migrate out to the ocean to feed, kokanee are often much smaller than sockeye. However, other than their size, kokanee have the same identification characteristics as sockeye. Since most kokanee live in a lake for most of their lives, you can usually see them spawning near the edge of a lake or in a small tributary that feeds into a lake.



Identification Characteristics:

  • In males, back and sides are bright red to dirty red-gray, head is bright to olive green, tail is green to black
  • In females, colors not as bright, but red above lateral line
  • Possible spots on back or tail fin
  • Males have a large dorsal hump
  • Range in length from 10-18 inches

Spawn Timing:

Early August through late December