Over 4 million Salmon Stocked in a Single Lake in Washington

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to stock a single lake with 4.2 million salmon this spring.

Is there a catch? Of course, there is!

Those millions of kokanee being planted in Lake Whatcom from March into May are all fry, meaning they are tiny. Only a fraction of the kokanee released at this Bellingham-area lake will survive to grow large enough for anglers to eat, but a fraction of 4.2 million is still a lot of tasty landlocked sockeye salmon fillets.

Interestingly, the fish stocked in Lake Whatcom make up nearly a third (29%) of the 14.4 million trout and kokanee being stocked in lakes and reservoirs across the state in 2024. That total doesn’t include alpine lakes stocked with trout fingerlings or fry.

It surely doesn’t hurt that one of the world’s largest kokanee hatcheries sits on the shores of Lake Whatcom.

This is a great place to mention that this tally also does not include the multitudes of salmon smolts (immature salmon) planted in the state’s rivers. Unlike kokanee, these other Pacific salmon migrate to the ocean. Survivors return in two to five years as full-sized salmon that are, in most cases, far larger than the typically trout-sized kokanee.

Nevertheless, kokanee are a popular gamefish that tend to be easier to catch than their ocean-going kin.

While Lake Whatcom is far ahead of other lakes stocked in terms of the number of baby kokanee stocked, there are quite a few others that get in on the action. In second place, Kachess Lake in Central Washington’s Kittitas County will be stocked with 395,000 kokanee. Nearby Keechelus Lake will get 250,000.

American Lake in Pierce County is another kokanee powerhouse in Western Washington with 400,000 kokanee stocked. Summit Lake (260,000) and Alder Lake (250,000) in Thurston County are some others that are generously planted. Lake Merwin in Southwest Washington is stocked with 93,000 kokanee that are closer to keeper size.

Many of these heavily stocked lakes are on our list of the best kokanee fishing lakes in Washington.

However, when it comes to kokanee, stocking isn’t the only metric you should look at. In some lakes, kokanee take care of themselves without a visit from a hatchery truck.

The best examples we can think of are Lake Chelan and Lake Roosevelt, some of the top kokanee fishing lakes in the state, if not the entire country. Kokanee in these massive lakes make spawning runs up tributary streams to replenish the freshwater salmon supply.

Most anglers catch kokanee by trolling small, brightly colored lures, including spoons, spinners and hootchies (small squid-like lures). Other tactics include jigging and bait-fishing. Our easy guide to kokanee fishing is a good place to start.

Also check out our Complete Guide to Lake Whatcom Fishing. (It’s also a pretty darned good bass lake!)

Our data source for this article is WDFW’s 2024 Statewide Trout and Kokanee Stocking Plan.