Salmon Not Cooperating For Tahoe Festival

Lake Tahoe
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Warm weather threatens to put a kibosh on Lake Tahoe's annual kokanee salmon festival.

Each year, tens of thousands of salmon return to Taylor Creek for their annual spawning run.

The U.S. Forest Service plans a festival this weekend, offering tours and educational programs about the fish and Lake Tahoe's ecosystem.

But so far, the fish aren't cooperating.

"They have not started their run yet. It's a day-by-day thing right now," said Rex Norman, spokesman for the Forest Service's Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

"Salmon don't read events calendars. They're tied to a number of environmental factors," Norman said.

"The biggest thing right now is the water temperature. Since the air has been above average for this time of year, the water hasn't been cold enough to trigger the run," he said.

As of Tuesday, only four salmon had been spotted in the creek, Forest Service officials said.

Norman said cooler overnight temperatures and increased water flow from Fallen Leaf Lake are expected to bring the water temperature down.

"Those things may encourage our salmon friends to show up for the weekend," he said.

Each fall, adult kokanee salmon return to Taylor Creek - about two to four years after they were spawned - to mate, lay their eggs and die.

From 40,000 to 60,000 salmon fill the creek from its mouth at Lake Tahoe and dart upstream to answer nature's call. In 2001, more than 85,000 filled the stream to spawn, said Mike St. Michel, director of Taylor Creek Visitors Center.

Days after they mate, the fish begin to die. They leave behind eggs that will hatch about 100 days later. The new stock will remain in the creek throughout the winter and then swim downstream to the lake in the spring.

Once it begins, the salmon run lasts about a month. The dead fish provide food for bald eagles, gulls, raccoons and other wildlife.