Early-spawn kokanee fillet (above) and late-spawn kokanee fillet (below).
Lake Pend Oreille Late Run Kokanee Salmon in Boise River Reservoirs
This fall many south Idaho kokanee anglers are concerned over fish they’ve caught having lighter colored meat than in previous years. IDFG stocks fingerling kokanee at Lucky Peak, Arrowrock, and Anderson Ranch reservoirs most years. Traditionally, these fish have been early-run kokanee reared from eggs collected at Deadwood Reservoir. In 2016 and 2017 Deadwood Reservoir did not produce enough kokanee to meet the next years stocking request. So IDFG Regional Fisheries Managers decided to backfill the stocking requests for these three waters with late-run kokanee from Lake Pend Oreille. These late-run kokanee are known for having lighter colored meat which southern Idaho kokanee anglers may not be accustomed to seeing.
What is the difference in late and early run Kokanee?
There are a few ideas as to why the meat color between early- and late-run kokanee differ; the most common being diet. Not necessarily what they’re eating, but more about how their digestive system processes the food. Early-run kokanee have additional stomach enzymes that help digest food allowing for more of the carotenoids (the pigment that gives kokanee their orange meat) to absorb throughout the muscle. Early-run kokanee spawn late August through September, while late-run kokanee spawn late October through November.
Northern Idaho angler reports suggest there is no difference in taste between early- and late-run kokanee as many anglers in that part of Idaho routinely target both strains. Historically, the commercial kokanee fishery on Lake Pend Oreille was for the lighter fleshed late-run fish. However, some kokanee anglers in the Treasure and Magic Valleys have reported that late-run kokanee in southern Idaho reservoirs have a milder flavor and the meat is less firm than early-run kokanee, while others have reported similar taste and texture.
Deadwood Reservoir Kokanee populations have rebounded since 2017, and in 2018 enough early-run Kokanee were spawned to fill the 2019 stocking requests for southern Idaho’s kokanee reservoirs. Starting with 2019 stocking, Lucky Peak, Arrowrock, and Anderson Ranch reservoirs will again be stocked exclusively with early-run kokanee.