A Very Kokanee Christmas

It’s easy to forget that our beautiful mountain lake home sits atop a cornucopia of magnificent flora and fauna. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s nice to step back and admire the marvels of the world around us. The weather is long past for afternoons lazing by the lake, but the creatures of our crystal clear Lake Nantahala waters are busier than ever. Our North Carolina Kokanee salmon have begun the last run of their lives, swimming upstream to spawn a new generation of brightly colored fish.

Kokanee Salmon

salmonAnglers know that Lake Nantahala hides a variety of fish, from trout to protected species like the spotfin chub. But causal fishermen might not know that Lake Nantahala is the only location in North Carolina to shelter the Kokanee salmon. The Kokanee salmon, a landlocked variety of sockeye salmon, have reproduced naturally in our waters since their addition in the 1960’s. This remarkable fish is one of the rare representations of salmon in the South.

Kokanee Salmon Spawning

Every autumn, mature Kokanee salmon transform their scales from shiny silver to russet red, swim upstream or into shallow recesses at the edge of the lake, and spawn. Though the Kokanee salmon can spawn any time between August and December, our southern climate often delays reproduction until the last weeks of the spawning season. The spawning runs are fascinating to observe with friends and family who are intrigued by the marvel of nature. After laying eggs, the Kokanne dies, providing winter fare for the carnivorous creatures that live in our woods. Fishers can catch Kokanee salmon while they’re still spawning, but be careful: catching them is both challenging and highly regulated. Do your research before attempting any fly-fishing adventures.

photo from flickr

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