Experimental Kokanee Stocking Seeks to Improve Fishery Diversity at Blackfoot Reservoir

Kokanee were stocked into Blackfoot Reservoir for the first time this spring in an effort to enhance the diversity and fishing opportunities available to southeast Idaho anglers. A landlocked form of Sockeye Salmon, kokanee are tremendously popular among anglers and known for their quality table fare. They’re also downright fun to catch and can be enjoyed by anglers of just about any skill level, further adding to their appeal.

Blackfoot Reservoir has long supported a great open water troll fishery for trout, and it is managed to support opportunities for both wild Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout and hatchery Rainbow Trout. Biologists have recently considered how to improve the diversity of this fishery with additional species that are compatible with current fishery management. This is where kokanee come in. Blackfoot is a very productive reservoir (it has the ability to grow a lot of quality forage), and because of that, it is thought to have strong potential for kokanee. While not typical of Idaho’s other well-known kokanee fisheries, like Anderson Ranch Reservoir or Lake Pend Oreille, Blackfoot is thought to have many of the right parts and pieces necessary to support a kokanee population.  History has told us that Blackfoot Reservoir is ideal for trout species, and the habitat needs of kokanee are very similar.  Collectively, this led biologists to believe that kokanee could perform well and provide another unique piece to this fishery.  

The voyage to Blackfoot actually starts on the other end of the state. Kokanee eggs are collected each fall from the Deadwood River to support the production of early kokanee that are stocked throughout much of the state. Survival of these kokanee eggs can be variable, so IDFG generally collects excess eggs to make certain that stocking needs can be met. When surplus fish result from this, many of those extra fish are stocked into traditional kokanee fisheries; however, some unique circumstances this spring made those surplus kokanee available for other waters. Several hundred thousand surplus kokanee were available, and fishery managers elected to use those fish to try and establish fisheries in Blackfoot Reservoir, as well as CJ Strike Reservoir in the Southwest Region. Of those, around 300,000 kokanee made their way to Blackfoot Reservoir this spring. You can check out the kokanee production process, form start-to-finish, here.

If kokanee perform well, anglers can expect them to show up in the fishery as early as next spring; larger, adult fish will start showing up in 2022. The addition of kokanee to Blackfoot has the potential to create even more open water angling opportunity and to enhance the diversity of the exisitng troll fishery. Anglers that are looking to try their hand at Blackfoot Reservoir next spring, or are interested in other kokanee information, are encouraged to check out this video on kokanee fisheries in Idaho.

Folks interested in further information about this particular program or other happenings in the Southeast Region can contact the Regional Office in Pocatello at (208) 232-4703.  

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    The author with a decent Idaho kokanee

    Licensing: 
    Creative Commons Licence
    Attribution: 
    Carson Watkins
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    The author with two southern Idaho kokanee

    Licensing: 
    Creative Commons Licence
    Attribution: 
    Carson Watkins
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