3 events where you can see bright red kokanee salmon in Utah this fall

SALT LAKE CITY — Autumn brings a lot of beautiful colors to Utah’s landscape, and driving to see the leaves change color is a popular activity for many locals. However, trees aren’t the only things that turn a brilliant shade of red in the fall — kokanee salmon do as well.

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In September, kokanee salmon — which are a shade of silver most of the year — change to a bright red prior to traveling up rivers and streams to spawn.

In September, kokanee salmon — which are a shade of silver most of the year — change to a bright red prior to traveling up rivers and streams to spawn. Their red color makes the fish easy to spot in the waters where they lay their eggs.

To celebrate the annual spawn, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is holding free viewing events at three locations across Utah.

Sheep Creek

This viewing event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the first bridge in the Sheep Creek Geological Loop, just off Highway 44. Sheep Creek, a tributary to Flaming Gorge Reservoir, is located about 6 miles south of Manila, Utah.

Participants should watch for the watchable wildlife signs that will be posted along the highway. You should be able to see the signs, no matter which direction you’re traveling on Highway 44. Biologists expect visitors to see quite a few kokanee in their bright-red spawning colors, as well as some other wildlife in the area.

“Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, red-tailed hawks, migrating songbirds, squirrels and a variety of other wildlife have shown up during this event in past years,” Tonya Kieffer-Selby, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR, said. “If you have a pair of binoculars, a camera or a spotting scope, make sure to bring it with you.”

DWR biologists will be available at the event to answer questions about the salmon and their behavior.

It’s also a great time of year to enjoy the auto tour along the Sheep Creek Geological Loop, as well as stop by the Red Canyon Visitor Center.

While the event is free, participants are asked to register for it on Eventbrite.

For more information, call the DWR’s Vernal office at 435-781-9453.

Strawberry Reservoir

This event will be held Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the U.S. Forest Service visitor center at Strawberry Reservoir. The visitor center is located along U.S. Highway 40, about 20 miles southeast of Heber City.

Participants will be able to see a few salmon in the Strawberry River next to the visitor center. But, if you walk to the fish trap and egg-taking facility behind the visitor center, you’ll see hundreds of the bright red fish. DWR biologists will be at the facility to show you the salmon and talk with you about the peculiar life cycle of the fish.

“Kokanee are easily visible in the river at the visitor center,” Scott Root, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR, said. “Once you arrive at the fish trap, you can ask questions about the salmon. If you want, you can even touch one.”

If the visitor center parking lot fills up, overflow parking is available south of the visitor center.

While the event is free, participants are asked to register for it on Eventbrite.

For more information about this free event, call the DWR’s Springville office at 801-491-5678.

Fish Lake

This event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fish Lake Lodge on the west shore of Fish Lake, which is located about 40 miles southeast of Richfield. The viewing event will be held at the newly constructed boardwalk near the lodge, and participants will be able to see the fish as they swim up Twin Creeks, a tributary to Fish Lake.

“The new boardwalk will make it much easier to enjoy this awesome event,” Phil Tuttle, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR, said. “This is a fun outdoor opportunity that the whole family can enjoy.”

The Fish Lake Lodge is located at 2 N. State Route 25, Fish Lake.

While the event is free, participants are asked to register for it on Eventbrite.

For more information, call the DWR’s Cedar City office at 435-865-6100.

Other viewing opportunities

If you are unable to attend one of the three DWR events, you can still see kokanee salmon spawning at those three locations until the first week of October. There are several other spots around Utah where you can see bright red kokanee as well. Details are available on the DWR website.

If you have the exciting opportunity to view kokanee this fall, use the hashtag #utahsalmon on social media to share your photos and videos with the DWR.

Fishing restrictions

If you like to fish for salmon in Utah, note that you are not allowed to keep any kokanee salmon caught anywhere in Utah from Sept. 10 to Nov. 30.

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