Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee Salmon


  • Common name: Kokanee Salmon
  • Scientific name: Oncorhynchus nerka
  • Order: Salmoniformes
  • Family: Salmonidae
  • Indigenous names for this species may be available through the Yukon Native Language Centre

Also known as

Land-locked Sockeye Salmon, Red Salmon

Viewing opportunities

  • Kokanee have been introduced in pothole lakes as a great fishing opportunity.
  • In late August and early September, visit Long Lake, Scout Lake, or Chadden Lake around Whitehorse, Coffee Lake near Ross River and Hour Lake near Watson Lake to see Kokanee from shore in their spawning colours.


  • Small eyes and small, weak teeth.
  • Bright silver blueish colour and have a trout-like body shape.
  • At spawning time they have a dark to brilliant red body, with olive green head; males develop a kype, or hooked jaw, a hump behind the head and more prominent teeth.

Fast facts

  • Length: 25 to 40 cm
  • Weight: 0.3 to 0.9 kg
  • Habitat: Freshwater

Conservation status

What is conservation status?

  • Yukon: NR
  • Global: NR

Yukon population estimate

Not determined.


Kokanee Salmon are the landlocked version of Sockeye Salmon and nearly identical except for their smaller size. They spend their entire life cycle in lakes. At spawning time, they take the appearance and colouration of Sockeye Salmon becoming bright red on the back and sides. During most of the year they are in deep water, feeding on zooplankton and chironomid larvae.


Aquatic insects and crustaceans.

Kokanee and people

  • In early June, large schools of Kokanee feed in the shallows of stocked lakes and are eagerly sought after by anglers for their tasty meat.
  • While Kokanee in stocked lakes are plentiful and a great choice for a meal, naturally-occurring Kokanee in the Kathleen Lake watershed in Kluane National Park and Reserve have declined in recent years. This population is currently rebounding. The sport fishery of Kokanee is closed in Kluane.