Salmon run below average for 2013 season

Leia Larsen
A brown trout attempts to swim upstream at the Shadow Mountain Reservoir spillway on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 4.
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

LAKE GRANBY –The kokanee salmon run lies just around the bend, but conditions won’t be in anglers’ favor this season.

According to Jon Ewert, aquatic biologist with the local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office, low densities of zooplankton and other organisms important in salmon’s food web bode poorly for the fish.

“It’s kind of a complicated story,” Ewert said. “Conditions have been poor for salmon for the last few years, and we expect a poor run in Granby this year.”

Come spawning season, salmon are less focused on food and instead driven by the need to breed. Anglers utilize snagging instead of bait fishing to catch the mature kokanee. Salmon aren’t native to Colorado, but are instead stocked in the state’s streams and reservoirs. During run season, most salmon try to return to the areas where they were first released.

“The return rate isn’t as high as what you’d get in a wild population, but they do come back to the spot where they were stocked,” Ewert said. “It’s kind of amazing.”

Lake levels and inlet conditions can vary in the course of a salmon’s lifetime, but the fish will usually still try to get as close to their stocking points as possible, Ewert said.

Brown trout, close relatives of Atlantic salmon, also have spawning runs and a high degree of “site fidelity,” Ewert said. Anglers will notice the trout moving upstream around the time of the kokanee runs.

Fish in high-altitude mountain environments do not have seasonal runs. According to Ewert, alpine lakes limit spawning options.

“It’s a simple environment – there’s either a good place to spawn or not,” he said.

According to Ewert, the area’s salmon runs move in a succession. The earliest run starts at Green Mountain Reservoir, followed by Williams Fork Reservoir, then Wolford Mountain Reservoir, and finally, Lake Granby.

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