Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Scott Root
Photo Copyright Scott Root

Spending its entire life in freshwater, the kokanee salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, is a landlocked form of the sockeye salmon. Kokanee salmon are a popular nonnative game fish in Utah; they have been introduced and become established in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Strawberry Reservoir, and several other water bodies in the state.

Kokanee salmon are silvery-blue for most of their lives, but turn a bright red color in the fall of their last year, prior to spawning. Kokanee salmon spawn over gravel beds, and they will often dig pits (called redds) in the gravel to receive their eggs. Much like sockeye salmon, each kokanee salmon returns to the area of its birth to spawn. Also similar to the sockeye salmon, kokanee salmon live for three to four years and die after spawning is complete. In Utah, kokanee salmon eggs hatch in the spring, usually in April.

The kokanee salmon diet is composed primarily of small animals, with large zooplankton being a food item of choice.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.