Where to See the Kokanee Salmon Spawn in the Sawtooths

Watching the Kokanee spawn at Redfish Lake is just one more piece of the incredible magic of Fall in Stanley, Idaho! It’s a phenomenon that return visitors are anxious to witness year after year, and one that inspires awe in first-time viewers. Kokanee Salmon are often mistaken for Sockeye Salmon, and are, in fact, very similar. Both Salmon species, they share their signature vibrant red hue; however, Kokanee live, spawn, and die in fresh water lakes and streams, while Sockeye hatch in fresh water, then make their life journey to and from the ocean back to fresh water lakes and streams. Kokanee are also smaller than Sockeye, and don’t share their hooked jaw. Still, these incredible fish are worth watching, as their vibrant red hues fill nearby streams with their striking color! Don’t take our word for it, here are a few places you can see the Kokanee spawn this fall:


Fishhook Creek

August to early September is prime time to observe Kokanee spawning along Fishhook Creek. The Fishhook Creek Nature Walk, located near the Visitor Center, offers an excellent vantage point. Here, the spawning Kokanee group together in deeper pools – perfect for capturing some stunning photographs. Fishhook Creek then feeds into Redfish Lake, where visitors can easily watch the Kokanee from the inlet bridge, just a few hundred yards from the Lodge.


*Current as of Summer of 2023, the Fishhook Creek Nature Walk is closed for repair. Estimates of its reopening are still to be determined.



Redfish Lake Inlet (South End of Lake)

The southern end of Redfish Lake is the best spot to see the Salmon spawning beds. Look out for clean, “bright” circles under the water’s surface – these are the redds where females lay their eggs and males fertilize them. With the lake’s clear waters, you’ll likely witness the captivating sight of females guarding their redds, and males seeking them.


Sawtooth Fish Hatchery

Guaranteed to be an informative and entertaining visit, the Hatchery offers an up-close look at the work being done to conserve the local fish population. Learn about Idaho’s natural history while observing fish at various stages of growth.


Come and See

Witnessing the Kokanee spawn in the Sawtooths is an unforgettable experience. So, plan your visit to Stanley, Idaho this fall, to partake in this extraordinary natural event, steeped in fascinating historical significance. Book your stay at Redfish Lake Lodge, where natural history and current adventures meet, making lasting memories for all!


Book Your Stay at Redfish Lake Lodge!

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