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The sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), wherever found in Idaho, was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on January 3, 1992). The only sockeye salmon population now in Idaho spawns in Redfish Lake and is considered a remnant population.
Spawning grounds for sockeye salmon range from the Columbia River Basin, north to Alaska and the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia. At one time, sockeye spawned in Idaho along the shores and tributaries of Payette Lake, the Stanley Basin, Redfish and Alturas lakes. Landlocked sockeye salmon are known as kokanee.
Sockeye migrate upstream in the Snake River in July and August. Spawning time is believed to be controlled by water temperature with lower temperatures resulting in earlier spawning. They spawn on gravel bars in streams and lakes with a water depth less than 30 cm. Sockeye are the only Pacific salmon to spawn in lakes. Spawning is triggered by water temperatures falling below 10oC. Females will construct redds and lay from 750 to 1600 eggs in different pockets up to a total of 2400 eggs. Sockeye die within a few hours of spawning.
Kokanee spawn in two different periods. Stream dwelling fish spawn in August and September while lake dwelling fish spawn in November and December. Kokanee hatch in late May and June.
Both sockeye and kokanee mature at three to five years of age. Sockeye typically attain weights of 2.5 to 3.2 kg while kokanee attain weights of .25 kg.