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Watch the kokanee return to the North Okanagan

By Roseanne Van Ee

By Roseanne Van Ee

Okanagan’s Nature Nut

Right here in our neighbourhood, the kokanee salmon will return to their spawning grounds from Kalamalka Lake onto Coldstream Creek at the end of September. So mark your calendars!

The best spawning beds for viewing are in Coldstream Park behind Coldstream Elementary School.

Interpretive signs there describe the kokanees’ life cycle from eggs to lake fish to spawning.

Merely 10,000 years ago (or less) Pacific salmon could swim up the channels connecting the Fraser and Thompson rivers through to the Shuswap to Okanagan and Kootenay lakes. But the sockeye salmon became land-locked as the glacial-produced massive waterways in B.C.’s dry interior gradually evaporated and receded into separate lakes.

With skimpier food resources, the fish eventually shrank in size over generations.

Our freshwater kokanee salmon are actually descendants of the Pacific sockeyes.

Everything about the kokanee lifecycle is on a smaller scale than the sockeyes but just as interesting to watch. About the time cottonwood, birch and aspen leaves show autumn colours, mature four-year-old kokanees turn into crimson “redfish” with green heads and tails.

Hormones racing through the males bodies develop humped backs and powerful long jaws with hooked snouts and teeth. Females don’t change their shape as much.

Thousands of kokanee annually swim upstream against the current, jump out of the water and fight for their partners and territories, then couple up to mate and lay eggs in the gravel, and then finally die. You can witness this astonishing spawning event late September until after Thanksgiving.

Schools and groups can even book a live kokanee presentation on Coldstream Creek with the Allan Brooks Nature Centre. Check out kokanee salmon under programs at There’s lots of action, so don’t miss the show! Walk slowly and softly towards the creek.

The salmon can’t hear you coming, but they can feel your footsteps hit the ground which vibrates the water and scares them away. Leave your pets at home. Please walk your dog elsewhere while the kokanee spawn.

Add a day to your calendar to see the amazing 2022 Adam’s River sockeye salmon run.

This year’s spectacular dominant sockeye salmon run is an incredible natural event that will amuse more than 100,000 spectators at the Adam’s River in Tsutsweck (formerly Roderick Haig-Brown) Provincial Park, northwest of Salmon Arm. It’s a world class event! The Adam’s River Salmon Society coordinates the Salute To The Sockeye every four years with demonstrations and displays by BC Parks, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and local First Nations. This year they run 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily Sept. 30 to Oct. 23. See for more details.

Watch for more on the sockeyes in my next column in a few weeks.

Roseanne Van Ee enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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