Most of the year the fish have a blue or silver back, and silver sides. There are small dots on the back and tail. When the fish is 3 or 4 years of age, it goes through a metamorphosis where it turns a crimson red and begins its spawning ritual. The males get a humped back, a hooked jaw and a pronounced black head. The females also turn a reddish color.
The kokanee salmon is actually a dwarf landlocked form of the sockeye salmon. It is, however, a true member of the salmon family. The kokanee salmon was brought to Utah from Washington in 1922 and introduced into Bear Lake. In 1937, it was planted in Strawberry Reservoir. It was restocked into Strawberry after the 1990 treatment. During the spawn season, usually in late August and early September, the fish will pair up one male, one female and head for either a stream or a suitable spawning area in a lake. The fish make a redd or nest in the gravel, lay and fertilize the eggs, and die. The meat on the kokanee is considered to be among the better tasting within the salmon family. During the spawn the meat is soft and mushy and loses its food value. As for its game qualities, what this fish lacks in size it makes up for in fight. While not in the spawn, the kokanee typically use the entire water column as they feed on plankton and are often seen breaking the surface.
Typically, the fish runs between 8 and 12 inches. A 2-pound fish is considered large, but it can weight up to 5 pounds. The world record is 9 pounds, 6 ounces and was recently caught in Alaska. The Utah record is 6 pounds. The fish was caught in Strawberry Reservoir in 1995.
Kokanee are pelagic fish. They do not relate to the bottom or to structure like trout. They prefer to cruise above deep water, filter feeding on plankton (small, shrimplike crustaceans) much like whales in the open ocean. Because of these traits, kokanee cannot live everywhere trout do, and are therefore not widely stocked. Major kokanee fisheries are Flaming Gorge, Strawberry, Causey and Porcupine reservoirs, and in Moon Lake.
Bryon Gunderson, Fish Tech Outfitters