Thousands of kokanee salmon are running up Harvey Creek, a tributary of Sullivan Lake on the Colville National Forest.
The three-year-old kokanee are leaving the lake to find spawning sites in the creek. The showy, scarlet fish are visible from the banks as they separate from their schools to find mates.
Forest Service officials encourage people to watch the annual migration, which continues through December, but to avoid harassing the fish or disturbing the streambed.
Females dig redds, or gravel nests, to lay eggs and die within a few days of spawning. The dying salmon feed animals such as bald eagles, raccoons, and mink. The dead fish also provide nutrients to the creek and Sullivan Lake that promote the growth of plankton and insect life that will feed next year’s young.
Kokanee eggs hatch in February and remain in the gravel until spring, when they are swept away into Sullivan Lake to start another cycle.
To see the kokanee run: travel from Highway 31 south of Ione and take County Road 9345 toward the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station and Sullivan Lake. The bridge is at the south end of the lake.
For a kokanee status report, call the Sullivan Lake Ranger District at (509) 446-7500.