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See kokanee salmon at Sheep Creek

Kokanee Salmon Day is Sept. 14, 2013

Related story: See kokanee salmon at Strawberry Reservoir on September 21.

MANILA — You don't need binoculars or a spotting scope to see kokanee salmon in Sheep Creek — the bright red fish are easy to see once they enter the stream.

Two spawning kokanee salmon at Sheep Creek in Utah.

You can see vibrant kokanee salmon in Sheep Creek during this year's Kokanee Salmon Day.

Photo by Ron Stewart, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

But if you attend Kokanee Salmon Day on Sept. 14, bring your binoculars or a spotting scope with you anyway. In addition to the salmon in the stream, you might see some bighorn sheep in the distance. And it's a great place to go birding.

On Sept. 14, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will hold its annual Kokanee Salmon Day. Viewing runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is free, and the viewing site is easy to get to.

Sheep Creek is in northeastern Utah, about six miles south of Manila. The viewing site is at the Scenic Byway turnout where Sheep Creek crosses under state Route 44.

UDWR biologists will be at the site between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Display materials will be available that will help you understand the life history and the behavior of the salmon you see in the stream. Spotting scopes will also be available in case bighorn sheep visit the area, which they usually do during Kokanee Salmon Day.

Fish are close to entering the stream

Kokanee are a land-locked relative of the sockeye salmon found in the Pacific Ocean. Rather than migrating upstream from the ocean, this population migrates upstream from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to spawn in Sheep Creek.

On Aug. 27, biologists said salmon were staging offshore but hadn't entered the stream yet. "It's common in a drought year for them to start the run a week or two later than in wet years," says Ron Stewart, UDWR conservation outreach manager. "We won't start to worry for a few weeks."

In 2011, Stewart says the salmon started entering the stream on Aug. 22. Records kept by the DWR show the salmon have come into the stream as late as Sept. 10.

"Anglers are starting to see salmon changing shape and turning red in the reservoir," Stewart says, "so we hope when they do decide it's time, the spawning run will be good one."

See a wide variety of wildlife

Seeing bright red kokanee salmon makes a trip to Sheep Creek more than worth it. But the salmon are often just one of many wildlife species that have been seen on Kokanee Salmon Day.

"At Sheep Creek, Kokanee Day often becomes 'Wildlife Day,'" Stewart says. "You can often see bighorn sheep, turkeys and other wildlife from the viewing site and the surrounding area."

If bighorns or turkeys appear, Stewart says you'll be able to see them through spotting scopes UDWR biologists will focus on the animals and the birds. Or the biologists can help you spot them so you can see them through your own spotting scope or binoculars.

In addition to bighorn sheep, Stewart says other big mammals, and a large variety of smaller mammals and birds, often pay a visit. "Birds of prey, including golden eagles, kestrels, osprey and vultures, are frequent visitors," Stewart says. "And participants often see or hear sandhill cranes as they fly overhead."

Stewart says driving along one of Utah's first National Scenic Byways (with its spectacular scenery and 18 interpretive sites), fall weather that's usually pleasant, leaves that are changing color, lots of wildlife and a chance to see bright red kokanee salmon make Kokanee Salmon Day an event you won't want to miss.

For more information, call the UDWR's Northeastern Region office at 435-781-9453.

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