One of the most delightful fall activities in the Tahoe region is watching the Kokanee salmon return to Taylor Creek for their annual spawn. For the second year in a row, the drought has dried up the creek, halting any of the salmon from traversing their way to their natural spawning habitat.
The landlocked Kokanee salmon return to Taylor Creek from Lake Tahoe each fall, typically in October, to spawn. These magnificent looking fish look straight out of a fall catalog due to their bright red hue. The salmon were introduced to Lake Tahoe by biologists in 1944 and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has created a unique educational program to view the Kokanee Salmon in their natural habitat at Taylor Creek.
On October 1, the Taylor Creek Visitor Center provided an update on this year’s salmon run, or lack thereof.
“Due to ongoing drought conditions and low water levels at Fallen Leaf Lake causing dry conditions in Taylor Creek, the Fall Fish Festival will be canceled this year,” said officials in a statement. “With low water flow in Taylor Creek, it is expected that the Kokanee salmon will not spawn in the creek this year.”
Despite the salmon’s inability to reach their historic spawning grounds, they will still be able to spawn in the waterways surrounding Lake Tahoe. The Kokanee have been known to find other creeks to swim up and spawn, and will return to Taylor Creek the following year when conditions allow.
In 2021, the drought halted the Kokanee from reaching Taylor Creek until a November storm provided a lifeline to the struggling salmon. Fish who waited until the later months were indeed able to reach the creek, despite it being dried up through October.
While us humans are certainly disappointed that we won’t be able to see the salmon in 2022, the bears are certainly more upset. Each year, the many bears of the Tahoe Basin flock to Taylor Creek to get a mighty feast of the Kokanee. The benefits of this feeding are felt throughout the local ecosystem. The eaten salmon carcasses bring nutrients to the water, allowing the many species of bugs and fish to flourish. It also enables the bears to enjoy a hearty, natural meal instead of searching for human food inside homes and cars.