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Unscheduled kokanee giveaway to take place in Dolores Thursday

Sizable early run means Colorado Parks and Wildlife will distribute fish at Joe Rowell Park
Colorado Parks and Wildlife will hold a previously unscheduled giveaway of kokanee salmon in Dolores Thursday at 3 p.m. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

A significant early run of kokanee salmon on the Dolores River is prompting Colorado Parks and Wildlife to host an unscheduled giveaway on Thursday.

Officials will distribute fish to at 3 p.m. at Joe Rowell Park in Dolores.

CPW had previously scheduled giveaways for Nov. 2 and 9.

“We've already seen a lot of fish coming up, and we've already conducted a few spawns, and we're going to have enough fish that we don't want to go to waste,” said spokesman John Livingston.

Kokanee salmon are nearly identical to the sockeye found in the northern Pacific Ocean. But unlike their saltwater-swimming brethren, kokanee are a landlocked species that spend their entire lives in fresh water.

Anyone wishing to receive free kokanee salmon can show up at Joe Rowell Park in Dolores Thursday with a bucket or cooler and a valid fishing license. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Still, the fish return to the location of their birth when it is time to spawn. These fish have spent their lives in McPhee Reservoir. Rather than laying their eggs in streambeds, the kokanee are spawned by hand each year by CPW staff.

The eggs hatch and are raised to the fingerling stage before their release into reservoirs across the state.

The early arrival of the run could indicate either the start of a longer run than is typical, or it may taper off. Livingston said anyone interested in attending the distribution events later in November should call the agency in advance. The Durango office can be reached at (970) 247-0855.

People who hope to receive fish typically begin lining up an hour before the giveaway begins. Participants of the giveaway must hold a valid Colorado fishing license and should bring a container to hold their “catch.” Youths up to age 4 may receive kokanee if accompanied by a license-holding adult.

Giveaways are also scheduled at Lake Nighthorse on Nov. 3, 10 and 17.