Lake Tahoe’s vibrant Kokanee salmon run, which occur each fall in Taylor Creek, was shuttered last week when the U.S. Forest Service unexpectedly shut off water flows from the from the Fallen Leaf Dam. This resulting in salmon eggs getting stranded on dry land and the remaining run of salmon unable to continue upstream.
The landlocked Kokanee salmon return to Taylor Creek 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.
This year’s sad outcome due to the lack of water flow was documented by local fishing guide JD Richey on his Instagram page:
When asked about the shut off of water from the dam, the Forest Service emailed this response:
“According to our lead aquatic biologist, in late October, Forest Service crews released water from the culvert at Fallen Leaf Lake Dam to complete emergency repairs that were inhibiting dam operations. This caused higher flows in Taylor Creek than would normally occur this time of year. On Friday, Nov. 3, 2023, Forest Service crews temporarily interrupted water flow through the culvert at the dam to prevent warm water invasive species from moving through the culvert and into the lake. As of Monday morning, Nov. 6, water is once again flowing over the dam into Taylor Creek while preventing the movement of warm water invasive species into Fallen Leaf Lake. Current flows in Taylor Creek represent natural conditions for this time of year.”
This is certainly a disappointing outcome in what was turning out to be one of the best Kokanee runs we’ve seen in Tahoe in years. With public outcry intensifying, it will be interesting to see if the Forest Service elaborates on their explanation. With dying salmon runs across the state, this seems like a slap in the face.