Kokanee Fishing





First off maybe we had better define what a Kokanee really is.  In some areas (like Canada) they are also called "Blue Back", because right out of the water their back is usually an iridescent blue color and with fiery red meat.  But they are actually a landlocked Sockeye Salmon.


Here in Kokanee fishing, I am a relative newcomer, but sometimes that is not bad as we inquisitive newbie's may tend to at times be better observers, and even question why established things are done in certain ways.  I have seen in numerous circumstances where once a bit of errored information is found in print, that it then seems to be taken as the gospel and readily repeated over and over.  I believe this is happening somewhat in this Kokanee fishing world also.


There are many Fishing Forums, with at least one which is dedicated just for Kokanee.  http://www.kokaneefishingforum.com/      Or you can go to those commercial tackle manufacturers websites like http://shastatackle.com/default.asp , http://crystalbasintackle.com/default.aspx or http://rockymountaintackle.com .   Also you may garner more information form fishing guides that may specialize targeting Kokanee at least part time of the year, some being http://www.darrellanddads.com/ or  http://kokaneekidfishing.com/ or "Kokanee University" section on  http://www.fishwithgary.com/  or Sam Baird's http://slamminsalmonguideservice.com/ AND join the Facebook which is one of the most helpful fishing forums out there  Northwest Kokanee Addicts.


When you start to explore the world of Kokanee fishing, you will see so many specific lures, attractors, bait and even water depths to fish that the newcomer begins to wonder just where to start.  This is not a bank fishery, so you will need a boat and a means of propulsion.  After the outfitted boat, the number one objective is to "Fish Where the Fish Are".  This requires either a sonar, OR a lot of educated guessing depending on the water temperature, maybe even both.


Many of us may have, when we were kids, fishing in a 12' rowboat with our dad or uncle, when trolling, caught trout using just a spinner and eggs, or even an old Ford Fender or Cowbell in front of a worm.  Rather simple then, why complicate things now?  In reality, once you learn the basics, it is somewhat simple, again "Fish where the fish are, and number two, Give them what they want".  And I would suspect even a few of you have even tried that old Ford Fender with worm again, hoping for trout when the targeted Kokanee are not biting?


What you will read here may be from a slightly different perspective than the died-in-wool Kokanee fisherperson as said previously, as I am a relatively new recruit to this game.  I have read repeatedly, and (heard) many times that Kokanee have soft mouths, so do not set the hook, or horse them in.  My guess, well maybe that may be so to some degree, but I really suspect that the use of a much heavier duty rod may be part of the problem.  I see many using a Steelhead or even a Salmon rod of upwards to being rated near or over 20#.  This could possibly have originated  before downriggers were common, and was needed when flat-lining or running weights to get the lure down to a hopefully desired depth.   But it will be overkill when actually running a downrigger or to some degree a diver.  Look at the recommended line weight for the rod you are using.  The rods designed for Kokanee are usually 7' to 7'6" in length, a light tip, medium butt section and a recommended line weight of 4-10# range, or possibly up to 6-12#, or even maxing out at 8-14# depending on the intended method of usage.  This type a rod is limber enough that it allows the fish some movement as compared to a salmon rod that you would just crank these fish in.  BUT THEY ARE DESIGNED TO BE USED OFF A DOWNRIGGER, so need not to be heavy as if dragging a weight. These Kokanee rods are somewhat similar to the "Noodle Rods" that come into play when used by Steelheaders or Salmon fishermen, only these are a lot shorter and lighter and with a little bit more backbone. 


Another thing that may be a contributing factor about them having "soft mouths and loosing fish", what about using a too small of a hook?  Maybe a #4 size will be fine for 9' to 10" Koks, or hatchery raised rainbow, but it is my observance that above that size of a fish, a larger hook (like a #2 or even a #1) WILL hook and LAND considerably more fish.  If the hook is too small, it will not get good or deep enough penetration, (especially if you have corn or other bait on it, partly blocking the hook's throat) and it will pull out IF you allow them to fight on top of the water.  If they come to the surface a ways back, they probably do not like to be this near the warmer surface and/or partly out of water.  If they do, they put up a lot of resistance, it is best to drop your rod tip into the water as you reel in, this will decrease the high rod's upward leverage, forcing them back below the surface a bit and calming them.  I am inclined to not really believe these fish are that "Soft Mouthed", but that in the beginning of this fishery, most people used their existing stouter rods and HORSED the fish in, contributing to them tearing off when fighting near the boat.  From what I have seen, they fight very similar to Coho salmon.  Once this theory of  "Soft Mouthed" was implanted in people's brain, it is hard to change their thinking.

And if the soft mouth is true, then please tell me why on impoundments, where the limits are generous AND the fish size is smallish, why do you see fishermen not netting the fish, but lifting them into the boat using the lure's hooks.  It would seem to me that a fish's mouth strength would be proportional, no matter the size.   Unless they do not care it it tears off, (possibly injuring the fish), as they don't care and with lots of fish available, they will just hook another.  


And netting is also an art here, where if the fish are not netted before they get to the boat's side, they fight a lot, giving them more of a chance of pulling the hook loose right at the boat.   Also consider using a landing net a size or two larger than the average short handled trout net, and find, or make a LONGER handle, thereby allowing you to net off the stern.  


One observance is when netting, you may see a difference of opinion whether to stop the boat or not, when netting a fish.  The general consensus is to just slow it down, (but how do you slow down a boat going only 1.5MPH or less) keeping your other lines/lures in the water hoping to catch another fish out of the school your catch just came from.  Some experienced fishermen will turn the boat (arc) slightly into the fish, which provides a chance of separating it from the other lines being trolled and slowing down the retrieve on that rod, calming the fish somewhat.  My observance is to use this strategy but I have found it best to ALSO use a long handled landing net and, (unless it is a large fish that needs more TLC) and for the netter to reach out off the rear/sides and net the fish as it INITIALLY approaches the stern of the boat.  It seems that once you bring them alongside, these fish tend to, when close to the sides of the boat, to become exited, to the point where they fight/jump/roll enough they can pull the hook out, AND off the side also makes it harder to net them.  Many fish are lost right at the boat because of this.


There is a difference in "Winter" fishing than "Summer " fishing and this would be determined by water temperatures.  These fish tend to favor a water temperature of near 50-54 degrees F.   One theory is the fish are scattered in the winter months and begin schooling later, (probably mid April) as the upper water warms up and a plankton bloom develops.  At this point, there becomes a division between the warm upper water and the cooler lower water.  This division is called the Thermocline which is about the temperature Kokanee prefer.  It is also the division where dissolved Oxygen becomes scarcer and plankton (which they feed on) ceases to exist.  This depth can usually be from 30' to near the 50' depth (depending on the lake, algae and infusion of cooler water, as if in a reservoir).


So during these warmer summer months, the water depth to fish will usually be at this Thermocline depth, making usage of a good sonar very useful in locating the fish and this Thermocline can usually be seen on good sonar units.  Or by measuring it with a good thermometer.  To reach this water depth accurately with a lure, a downrigger is the method of choice.  You can also reach it by using a lead weight or diver, but usually by trial and error.  By using the chart below and a line-counter reel, you should be able to come up with a close approximation of a water depth of your lure.  Here a pull equals 2' of line of the reel.  So by changing the weight and/or the distance of line out, you can be pretty close in a desired depth.  In my experience, 30 degrees is about the line angle you will be shooting for when NOT using downriggers.


This chart gives some computer driven numbers using the known angle  



Regarding the Thermocline depth - - On American Lake in Washington State, (which we can classify as a Stagnate Lake because of not a lot in inflow/outflow), the warmest water and the most pronounced Thermocline my friend recorded was on August 24th, 2014.  The Thermocline layer spanned about 20 feet, from about 30-50 feet deep, depending upon where you choose to bracket the Thermocline layer:

Surface     73.5
20 feet     72.8
30 feet     61.4
40 feet     53.5
50 feet     49.4
60 feet     48.7

At that time, the WDFW readings of Dissolved Oxygen were close to zero below 30 feet, and the bulk of sonar fish were at 30 feet, plus or minus a little.  At that time, fishing was not great and Larry Phillips, a WDFW biologist thought that the fish were stressed then, having to stay in water too warm for them in order to get enough Dissolved Oxygen to survive.
During September through December, as the upper water cooled the Thermocline layer moved lower and lower, and then became wider until it eventually dissipated.  WDFW quit measuring Dissolved Oxygen in early September, but presumably the sinking of cooling upper water dragged some DO down with it.  That’s the theory, anyway, and is referred to as the “Fall Turnover.”  (There is no “Spring Turnover” in lakes whose surface never cools down below 39F.)

Winter and early spring Kokanee fishing, again fish were the fish are and this relates to warmer top water.  The normal method here would be long-lining with minimal weight and with the lure back 100' or more.  Normally no or 1/2 once of lead, OR off a downrigger set at 10 or 15' down.  This distance back is needed so that the fish tend to forget the noise and boat movement that may have disrupted them and tend to move back to their normal feeding locations.  In some instances, even using planer boards widen this swath and improve chances of locating more fish.

Winter fishing, when a deep lake "Turns Over" meaning the cooler water now is on top, and the warmer water is on the lower part, fishing for Kokanee will change to fishing near the surface.  To explain this, fresh water becomes more and more dense as it’s temperature drops, but only down to about 39 degrees F.   At that point, the water starts becoming LESS dense, and the colder water (and ice) float above the warmer water below.   But this only takes place in lakes where that are "Stagnate Lakes" where the “upper layer” cools below 39 F.  

Shown below again of American Lake this past winter (2014), it did not get that cold on top, and the top-to-bottom temperature on December 31 was:  So you can see there was no Thermocline water temperature division.
   Surface     47.1
  5-10 feet   46.9
15-20 feet   46.8
26-65 feet   46.6
     70 feet    46.4
Three weeks later, on January 25, 2015, the surface had warmed to 48.3 and water was 46.9 at 60 feet.

My friend who fishes there a lot expects that in 2015 American Lake will gradually develop a warmer surface layer, and an ill-defined Thermocline layer that becomes more defined as it moves lower and approaches about 25 feet.  That is the depth, by the way, that rooted near-shore plants quit growing in American Lake.  Apparently below 25 feet there is not enough sunlight left to promote active photosynthesis.  He continues checking depth/temps on his numerous trips there, adding to his log book.

I have an old-time schoolmate who lives in Kalama near Lake Merwin (the lowest impoundment on the North Fork of the Lewis River in SW Washington) and one thing he mentioned is that in the late winter/early spring, if there is a lot of rain, you may find some floating debris.   If so, at this time the year, do not overlook fishing around the edges of this debris, which becomes home to a multitude of insect type fish food.



Flat-line fishing in solitude on a foggy morning Here the downrigger rod is set, note the usage of a LH reel



Identify a Kokanee ;  Kokanee mature between 3 – 5 years of age and, like other salmon, die once they have spawned.  In large lake ecosystems, Kokanee play an important
role as food for large predators like rainbow, Makinaw (Lake) trout, Burbot, and sturgeon.  Other wildlife species such as osprey, kingfisher, mink and bears feed on them at different times of the year as well.  Kokanee are strictly plankton feeders and they can rapidly overpopulate, (given the right conditions) resulting in large numbers of stunted fish.

Many fisherpersons confuse landlocked Coho salmon or landlocked Chinook salmon, even Rainbow trout for Kokanee.  There also appear to be numerous local strains of Kokanee (a guess would be partly because of hatchery practices) which could help lead to this confusion, however the one simple definite difference is the gill raker make up. 


Since trout and other salmon are a predator and eat other fish, their gill rakers are set somewhat apart, allowing them to readily bypass water, yet retain their pray before swallowing it.  However the Kokanee being a plankton feeder, needs more of a filter system in the gills, retaining the minute plankton, while forcing the water out.  Hence the Kokanee gill rakers are considerably closer together, similar that of a hair comb, as shown in the RH photo below.  But, I have seen trout so stuffed with plankton that you would think they could not swallow any more, so they seem to be able to eat a lot when it presents itself, (however possibly not being as efficient as Kokanee in this aspect).


The anal fin has 13 to 17 rays; its base is longer than the base of the dorsal fin.  There are 29 to 40 gill rakers on the first arch.



Rainbow Gill Rakers Kokanee Gill Rakers



Here you can see the more defined hair like, longer rakers of Kokanee



Unicorns do exist



Kokanee Life Cycle;  From August to early December, mature Kokanee living in impoundments that are stream fed, move into the inlet streams, and along lake shores to spawn if no feeder streams are present.   In lakes where these fish are planted and have no feeder streams, they may try wherever possible even in ditches because of their inherited genetics.   With a 3 – 5 years lifespan, it is not really known what the non-spawning age fish do this time of the year, but it is suspected, the younger fish may follow the older fish to the spawning areas.  Then the life cycle begins, of the younger fish retreating to deeper water for the winter, staying in their comfort temperature of near 50-54 degrees F.


They live in cooler waters even down to 200' in deep lakes and can undergo unusual vertical migrations at dawn and dusk to feed on surface zooplankton and insects.


They grow in relationship to their food supply.  


Kokanee Lures ;  

There seems to be two types of fisherpersons here, (1) those that DO NOT use downriggers, (2) those that DO use downriggers.  However depending on the impoundment, I suspect it will not be long before the nons will be converted.   This may vary from lake to lake, as to lake depth also along with water temperature.  The lures used may be very close to each style, but the method and the attractor may be different.    And, depending on the upper water temperature long lining, as when trout fishing, can be very productive in the early part of the year. 


One question that pops up for the newbie starting to use a downrigger, is how heavy a ball do they need?   The rule of thumb seems to be 1 pound for every 10' in depth.


The two most common attracters are the Dodger as seen on top in the photo below.  The other is a Teardrop style, many times named a Sling Blade.  Both of these do not rotate but wobble from side to side.  These attractors usually come in sizes ranging from 5" upwards.  However the theory here is you do not want to spook the intended fish by intimidating them by imitating a larger fish that they may think is a predator on them.  One theory is also that the fish are not attracted to the attractor because of it's flashing action, but by the pressure wake they produce.


The leader length behind them will vary depending on whether the lure has a built-in action.  This meaning (1) a lure that has no action, like a plain fly or hoochie, the leader needs to be shorter (usually 2 1/2 times the length of the attractor).  (2) for a lure with it's own action like the Wriggle Hoochie shown on top in the photo below or a spoon/spinner where it does not rely a lot on the action of the attractor to give action to the lure, then the leader length can be 2' to 3'.  These lengths can vary on the speed of the boat, shorter for a slower trolling speed.


For the NON DOWNRIGGER USERS the best seems to be a diver or sinker capable of achieving 30' on bright days, a small dodger and a small Apex or Shasta Tackle Pee Wee wriggle hoochie fill this presentation.  And about any color hoochie as long as it is UV.  However, I have found that white, pink, purple or a combination of them works for me.  Use your sonar to locate algae/krill, and fish, then concentrate on that area with your lure in the upper part or just above this food sorce for them.


Typical Kokanee trolling downrigger tackle


 Some fishermen use a small snubber on the line ahead of the dodger when using the downrigger.   This snubber can then pierced a few times on the rear, then injected with a scent.  The thought here is the snubber acts as a scent reservoir and leaks the scent out over a long period of time.   Don't be bashful when using worms in trying scent also.  Sometimes just adding herring scent to worms will make the difference between a fishy smelling boat or not.  Cocktail shrimp work good by themselves (if drained and zapped in a microwave for about a minute to toughen them) or in addition to worms.  Just remember if you use bait, in many states, you have to retain all the fish that you bring in.  If you cull and throw the small ones back when using bait, the ones thrown back count against your limit.


And, taking a page out of Sockeye lures, even a set of tandem tied #2 red hooks 6" behind a Sling Blade works in Gin clear water.


You will no doubt want me to delve into what lures work best.   I do have many different styles in my tackle box, but I am not sure that I have the ability to progress into that area YET.  I will here give you a very vague rundown of lures.  Give me a few more years experience on that subject, but at my age, I might not live long enough or give up in my quest to understand what and why Kokanee bite a lure, so I listen intently to anyone who is willing to expound on the subject.  I can then digest this information and later try it out myself.   Remember, some fishermen are good at trying to impress others, and can get carried away at times.


Don't put one gear type on and troll it all day because that is what you caught them on last week.  Change lures or combinations until you find what works.  Troll in zig-zags, slow down, then speed back up, use scent.  These fish seem to travel in schools, so if you have a hit, don't just keep on trolling, hit your GPS Waypoint and turn around trying to get back onto the school and for another bite (if the wind allows you to do that) from another fish from a possible school that you may have went thru.  Try different trolling depths.  Try close to a protected cove or shore that may have a pocket of wind/wave driven food.  Also the wind may be your friend as it may push bait/krill into a protected area.  What worked yesterday may well not work today.


One friend uses a Jet Diver or Dipsy Diver about 16-20" in front of a Mini-Fish Flash or Sling Blade and then a small spoon or hoochie rig about anywhere from 8" to 20"  behind the attracter.  He trolls with about 30' to 50' of line out and does quite well at times in his home waters.  In the photo below the lengths had to be shortened to fit in the photo.  Here the diver is a Luhr Jenson's Dipsy Diver.  These Dipsy Divers have a adjustable release clip, so when the fish hits, or you jerk the line, it releases, creating little drag fighting the fish or retrieving after a hit.  Also their outer ring is adjustable sideways allowing them to be made to pull to the side if you need more room straight off the stern.


Typical Kokanee trolling diver tackle


 The problem using a Jet Diver is that when reeling it in with a fish that is not large enough to trip it, or to change lures, becomes a chore.  Here is a method of modifying it so you can trip it from the rod, eliminating this problem.   Attach a mini downrigger clip to a short section of heavier mono to (40 to 60#) and a snap on the bottom which snaps into the top attachment or pull point.  If the diver does not have the 3 drilled attachment holes, drill one low on the front as seen below.  Here you attach your rod's mainline.  Pull it up, but leave enough slack so it is not the pull point at the clip, where you clip onto this mainline.  Of course the bottom snap is where yiou attach your leader to the attractor and lure.  Just remember you do not want it so long as to not be able to land a fish.


In use, everything works as before, EXCEPT that you can trip this diver by pulling it out of the downrigger clip from the rod, the pivot point is lower and you can now reel a fish in or to change lures with minimal resistance when compared to before.


Here by modifying a Jet Diver the fisherman can trip it from the rod 


One of the lure enhancements that has been used for many years is Green Giant white Shoepeg Corn.   Definition of SHOEPEG CORN ---  White sweet corn is actually a mutation of the regular field corn with a higher sugar than starch ratio of content.  It also has a high water content compared to field corn.

While most corn is of the field corn variety (i.e. treated as a grain), sweet corn is harvested during the immature stage and treated as a vegetable.  Yellow corn is very similar to white corn; it is actually an evolutionary offshoot of white corn. As corn was further cultivated, research and scientific development produced different varieties from the original species.

Both the kernels and milk of white corn are creamy white in color.  The amount of starch in any given corn variety will determine if it is used for sweet corn, feedstock corn, popping corn, flour corn or biofuel corn, among other designations.   The kernels have a very high percentage of sugar and water in their composition.  When at their prime ripeness (the milking stage) the kernels will be tender, sweet and succulent.  As the ear matures the water content decreases, the sugar turns to starch and the kernels become tough with a doughy consistency

Shoepeg corn is a common ingredient in salads and corn dishes throughout the Southern United States, but is relatively unknown in other areas of the country. It is on rare occasions available fresh in some areas, but it is most often canned.   Shoepeg corn is also the best variety of corn for Kokanee salmon bait.


However many fisherpersons have now made the switch from this corn to white Berkley Gulp Maggots … this may also be something you may want to put in your tackle box!  One thing that seems to many times pop up as to scent to use is Tuna, either drained from canned tuna, of prepared in the form of "Bloody Tuna.  If you are going to use the canned stuff, be sure to include a can opener aboard your boat, as I have never seen a can of this with the zip top opener (however I see some starting to appear on the water pack cans, so maybe there is hope).  It can become frustrating if you rise early, get on the water and forgot your can opener.  Those copies of the old WWII military key chain can openers work quite well.


And then if the stars are aligned and you have a good guide, fishing may be like in the photo below that was snatched of Northwest Kokanee Addicts website.



Here, mid February 2017 Lake Roosevelt Kokanee to 22" with guide
Austin Mosier & WDFW Commissioner Dave Graybill



Below you will read notes taken from numerous Kokanee seminars by various experienced fisherpersons, most being guides.  Others being manufacturers, or representing manufacturers, therefore you may see significant preferences in rods, reels or lures.  However all have numerous things in common, some cover the whole spectrum of Kokanee fishing, but possibly not in depth, depending on the time allocated.  Others asked the audience if they were newbies, how or where they fished and matched this input to what they then later covered, therefore then they then usually will go into greater detail in the finer aspects, such as leader length, lures or colors.  Some call it Flat Lining, while others may call it Long, even Lead Lining, pretty much the same in my book, depending on the weight used. 


Now you have to realize that since most of these are fishing guides, they may have more specific needs as to rods, lines, leader weights, downrigger weights etc. than the normal Kokanee fisherperson.    Numerous guides use some sort of a bumper on the mainline above the swivel/snap.  This could be just a 6mm plastic bead, a golf tee, or a Gum Pucky (a soft plastic head used by salmon fishermen inside the head of a hoochie).   The reason is that many of their clients may not be familiar with light tackle and if they get exited when the fish is near netting time, these bumpers can help prevent the swivel from being pulled into the rod's top guide, providing a good chance of eluding the breaking of the sensitive rod tip. 


Read them all listed below and draw your own conclusions.



Notes from Seminars at the 2015 Portland Sportsman's Show

Jeremy Jahn (Kokanee Kid)

His presentation was geared toward fishing in Lake Merwin, & Yale reservoirs in Southwest Washington.


(1) Buy best equipment you can afford

(2) Keep it maintained & make sure it is all working before a trip

(3) Carry extras, rods/reels, line, ready to fish lures, & downrigger balls

(4) Have a game plan, who watches the rods, who's turn to grab a rod, who nets etc.

(5) Exchange information before & on water.  Web forums/ phone updates with on the water friends.



Bright sunny day, use darker attractors/lures.

Cloudy day, use bright attractors/lures.


Water temperature, Kokanee like water 50-55 degrees, so find that water.  Early (Winter/spring) that will be on top 15'.  Later it may be down from 20'-60' & it (Thermocline) may 20'-40' thick.  Larger fish will be nearer the bottom (cooler) edge of this.  Thermocline is a separation of water temp & dissolved Oxygen, since Koks are basically plankton feeders there needs to be enough Oxygen for it to grow. Later in year when Thermocline forms, surface temp is of little importance.


Fish underwater structure, channels, points of land, shallows on Lake Merwin or any dammed lake/reservoir, early in the season it will be best upstream & not near the dam face as most of the warm surface is flowing over dam.  Look upstream nearer inlet creeks or over shallows.


Inland lakes with no real in-outflow are totally different than reservoirs as water is usually warmer and Thermoclines are shallower (25-30').


Boat traffic will move fish away.  If that takes place, move shoreward to where they may be trapped between boaters & a shelf or shore.  Think like a fish.


Wind usually moves feed UP nearer the surface & the fish will follow.  Wind will move feed from one side of lake to the windward side, fish there if possible.



This could be anywhere from .9 mph to 2.5mph, BUT usually 1.1 to 1.2mph.  Occasionally if nothing is happening, try even faster, up nearer 2.5mph will not hurt & may even help.



Rod selection depends on the method and the lure.  For flat-lining a 8 1/2' Coho salmon rod works fine, just do not horse them in.  For downrigger fishing, a shorter 7' to 8', lighter (4-10#) fiberglass rod works great.  It is best for these light rods to have LOTS of eyes, evening the line stress, a 10 to 12#  rating is not overkill.


With that light a rod, you do not really want a graphite rod, but a fiberglass one with a light top 1/2 tip section and stronger butt, in case you happen to hook a landlocked Chinook.


When running multiple rods, place the flat-liner rod mounted vertical, HIGH AND back 100-150', this way the other rods can be worked underneath.

Have spare rods rigged & ready in case of tangles or lost/broken gear.  Have all your gear possible to be in water all time, a dry hook catches no fish.  Where 2nd rod endorsement is in use, ALWAYS use a 2nd rod, as if you do not, then each non rod cuts your percentage of encountering Koks by 50%. the more rods in the water the faster you will find the fish OR what they are hitting on.  Run each rod with different attractor & lure until find what they want that day.



Level-wind bait casting Steelhead reels predominate here, however you may see a few (very few) spin-casters.


Try to match reel to rod, no sense of having a large heavy 300 yard capacity salmon reel on a small light rod.  Small reels can be a moderate (5 to 1 ratio) to fast retrieve (like bass fishermen) reels (up to 7 to 1 ratio), not for a fast fish retrieve, but if a nice fish is on & the nearby rods need to be pulled in, this helps get other gear out of the water before a tangle happens.  Line counter reels may be of a benefit, however most of the commonly available (2015) ones are a heavier salmon style.  For many fisherpersons, line-counters these reels may be a benefit if they can not count/keep track of the number of level-wind guide reel crossings.  Usually one complete crossing (over & back) will equal 10' on a full reel, however if you use this method do a measurement of line pulled out.



Most fishermen will use 8# mono mainline & 15# leader.  Not good to use the older lead-core line, as it gets to a point where the more you let out, the more resistance you get in the water & it does not go any deeper.  And for these "soft mouthed" fish you do not really want to use braid line.



Turn off Fish ID, use only fish pixels & adjust unit so you can even see line/lures in water.  After some usage, you should be able to tell the different specie of fish seen.



It seems the best attractors he has tried are the Sling Blades, especially for downrigger fishing.  Although about any large salmon spoon can be utilized as an attractor.  For flat-lining, usually a 1-2oz kidney sinker & rudder in front of a short medium sized 2 blade gang troll will work.  Also if you are using a Maglip plug, you can try it with no attractor.


You need a distinct BOLD contrasting color combo, (like a medium width dark diagonal slash on a light plain color) as it seems to work better than plain.


Gold & Silver reflect way more light than nickel or brass.  This applies to both attractors & lures



There are 2 types, (1) those with no action (flies or hoochies)  (2) those with their own action ( spoons or spinners). 


For the (1) the leader length will have to be 6-8" (short enough to give the lure action).


For the (2) leader length at 28" as for Wriggle Hoochies / Apex Kokanee lures or spinners. 



Use size #4 or #2 hooks & tie close together.



Bait on lures will usually be Shoepeg Corn.  Drain off liquid, divide into 4ths (into small Rubber-Maid containers) & place scent in fridge overnight.  Keep corn cold.  Use a gel pack & small cooler. Refrigerate after trip & you can reuse maybe for 3-4 days.  Dispose of it & re-make more as it is the cheapest part of the equation.


He said nothing about freezing it, but I suspect it may make it mushy, but a friend says he has found no difference.


(1) ProCure Kokanee Killer Magic

(2) Garlic Samole

(3) Garlic Anis

(4) Garlic & Bloody Tuna (not a lot of tuna scent so it doesn't color the corn red)


Use only one corn on upper hook & hook so open end facing rearward.  It also gives the fish a solid visible target object.



Downriggers need not be the most elaborate, depending on the size of the boat & how many are fishing, AND if you are on a 2 rod lake.  If you do a lot of this kind of fishing, you WILL gravitate to an electric downrigger.



When using downriggers, 10# weights are fine when using electrics, or 4-6# when using manuals.  When fishing for Mackinaw using electrics, 15# is good (as you are going a lot deeper).  A problem arises when using round cannonball weights when fishing reservoirs that are drawn down in the fall, leaving underwater stumps that grab onto the cannonballs.  So make your own weights from 1 1/4" aluminum round tubing & fill it with lead, with a large eye loop on top.  About 14" long equals 8 1/2#.   These are very resistant to becoming hung on anything, and do not spook the fish.  You may want to also paint them black, or have them powder-coated.



Try to stack 2nd line on DR wire at 10' distance apart.  One side 5' lower than the other, so if running 4 rods off 2 downriggers when fishing fish zone or Thermocline, you will have lures 5' apart vertically.  Have the bottom lure shorter than the upper stacked lure.


The setback from DR wire to the lure will normally be 30', but vary this 5' from Port to Starboard (left & right to you landlubbers).


Do not set the hook, just start to reel in & not fast, as you want the fish tired when it is near the boat, as they can jump a lot.  They say these fish have soft mouths & the hooks can pull out.  DO NOT lift any fish in boat with rod/line, but net them.  If when a nice fish is hooked, turn the boat onto that side giving a clearer chance (other rods out yet) of bringing it in.   Do not stop boat when you hook fish (you may slow it down, but do not stop, remember you may have a lot of other gear out).


Put snaps on the bottom of everything you use, the Mainline, Sinkers, Attractors, etc., with a swivel or loop tied at the top of the leaders.  This allows you to quickly change gear.  Leaders need a swivel or double overhand or double surgeons knot at the forward end.


Arrange your lures in an orderly, quickly accessible fashion, like a foam leader spool or in a compartmentized plastic box.


Black Boxes seem to have no value on these fish as he has caught fish with it set at .5 all the way up to 1.5V.  And the 1.5V fish followed up & was right at the boat.


Clean the scent off lures ASAP after usage



Here he uses a bait-casting reel loaded with 40# braid line.  The rod can be about any steelhead rod in the 8' to 9' length.


As mentioned above, for flat-lining, usually a 1/4 to 2oz kidney sinker & rudder in front of a short medium sized 2 blade gang troll will work.  He however favors a kidney sinker and rudder combo of a Cousin Carl lake troll, (which is two large Dee shaped blades on a cable), a Mack's Lure 3/16" rubber snubber and then the lure which could be a Wedding Ring, spinner or even a small Spi-N-Glo.  And the hooks will be tipped with Shoepeg corn.  The Cousin Carl troll is made by Poulsen Cascade tackle.


Behind the snubber he will use 28" of 15# mono as these fish are not leader shy and the length is because these lures do not need the action of a dodger normally used on a downrigger.  However if you insist on using a dodger and a hoochie that has no action of it's own, then 8" will be the length.


The distance he lets his line out usually is 60'.  If he wants to get deeper, he changes to a heavier weight.  His thought is that if he is 25' down and the fish are deeper, they will come up being inquisitive to take the lure.


If you are not catching fish, make S turns at a 30 degree angle.  This raises and lowers the lures, and if a fish is following, the change usually triggers a bite as the outer lures will alternate raising and lowering in the water column.





Notes from Seminar at the 2015 Portland Sportsman's Show

Gary Miralles (of Shasta Tackle)
Gary talked more about his products than the how to's and more on California waters.


Why do Kokanee strike a lure even though they are plankton feeders?  They are inquisitive along with being territorial.  Kind of like a cat chasing a toy mouse or laser beam.


However he did mention in some of the California impoundments where shad are present, that if you see the baitfish (shad) surfacing on a shallow point (pushed there by larger fish), then to flatline up to 300' behind the boat and swing wide around the surfacing baitfish, then pull back in when on the other side of the point.  This allows your lures to cut the corner and into the attackers.  I did not ask if these attackers were Kokanee or not. ???



Troll speed for Kokanee 1.2 to 1.5mph, and 2.0mph for trout.



Glass rod, light, but fast on upper 1/2 stiffer butt section.  He has teamed up with Cousins Rods Co. & designed a new 7' 3" one piece Pro Series Kokanee Rod.



Level-wind bait casting Steelhead reels predominate here, like the Ambassadors, he is not keen on line-counters, as they all will be heavier.  (Note from the author, there are now small line-counter reels being made the same size, or smaller than the Ambassadors.)



He likes to use 8# mono mainline & 10# leader.



In shallow water, sonar is not good for locating fish.  Some clear sunny days, non rippled water, your setback will have to be longer for all rods, allowing the boat noise/shadow to not spook them



UV on both attractor & lure really helps.  UV is essentially a prism which in turn is a rainbow, & which shows which light goes 1st.  One good color is UV "Moonglow" or Purple.  In the fall is when the pink colors really come into use (color of spawning Kokanee).  Also glow in the dark is an good option.



When using a lure that has no action of its own – say a hoochie, bare hook or a fly – keep the lure very close to the dodger. That way, it will pick up some movement from the dodger.  Also use stiff a mono (say 12-15# fluorocarbon) for the leader so that even more action will be transferred to the lure.  Make your leader 2.5 times the length of the dodger when using low/non-action lures.  Bump the leader length up to 4 times the length of your dodger if you’re using active lures like spoons, Wriggle Hoochies or spinners.  Now remember, if you use different sizes of attractors, your leader length will also change.


When using a Triple Teaser you can use up to a 36" leader, which is a good flatline lure for about any fish.



Use size #4 hooks & tie close together.



Shoepeg corn has it's own scent, but you can add Anis, Garlic or Krill.



Downrigger mounting, mount it far enough forward so you can come in rearward of it to work the downrigger & to net fish. 


If you do not have a downrigger, use a diver, Pink Lady or Deep Six, OR take an old salmon rod, & a non levelwind reel.  Cut the rod off at the reel seat, mount it in a rod-holder & use it as a downrigger.


He invented a Shuttle Hawk, which attaches to the downrigger wire for a stacker where the depth is governed by how much line you let out.  It acts very much like a diver used for salmon fishing.   It has it's own release clip & when tripped it automatically returns to the surface while still attached to the downrigger wire.    He also designed & sells a downrigger clip release.


Stack upper the rod 10-15' farther back than bottom lure.  When a fish hits the bottom lure, it will usually run to the side & not straight up, & this usually clears the upper stacked rod.  AND if he missed the lower lure, the upper stacked lure is in his face for a possible 2nd hit.



Early spring 52/55 degree water temp.  Shallow water warms up faster as will shallower points of land.


When flat-lining, you want the lure to go no more than 10' deep.


Make S shaped trolling patterns, & with a high flat-lining rod back 150/200'.  If fish are working bait at a shallow point, you can swing out away from feeding fish, then back in around the point, this will drag your flat-lined lure right through them, while still keeping the boat away & not spook them.


If you are catching fish, don't keep on trolling, but turn around & go back through them.  Mark the spot with GPS or marker float.


In most Washington/Oregon lakes the depth of fishing may be in the Thermocline at a 20 to 40' wide band and down to maybe 60-100' in warm weather.


As of late 2016, Gary sold his tackle business to Mac's Lures, with them being into production for the 2017 season.




Notes from Kokanee seminar given at Bob's Sporting Goods 2-12-15

 Cameron Black  of (Gone Catchin Guide Service),

Cameron's seminar title was "Kokanee Trolling Techniques" & was geared toward fishing in Lake Merwin, Yale & Swift reservoirs in Southwest Washington.



Bright sunny day, use bright attractors/lures.

Cloudy day use darker attractors/lures.


Water temperature, Kokanee like water 50-60 degrees with 54 ideal, find that water & if fish are there, your odds are good.  Early (Winter/spring) that will be on top 15'.  Later it may be down from 20'-60' & it (Thermocline) may 20'-40' thick.


Do not troll sideways to wind, as it makes netting a problem & tangles worse.  Use sea anchors if needed.


Never troll into the sun, (unless you are fishing DEEP), with your lines behind the boat, the boat's shadow will have spooked the fish.  Along with that, the fish not being able to clearly see the lure because they will be somewhat blinded by heading into the sun.



This could be anywhere from 1.0 mph to 2.0mph, BUT usually 1.1 to 1.4mph with his desired speed at 1.2mph. 



The rods he uses are usually Lamiglas Classic Glass #CG70DR, which is a 7' 10" rod that is actually classified as a downrigger rod, that has a limber tip section, but has a stiffer butt section, making it a pretty well all around rod for use in his guide service.  This type a rod action is needed in comparison to a light limber to the reel rod, which would ONLY be usable as a downrigger rod.  Another good rod is the Kokanee Kid rod.



The controversy over a Standard Level-wind vs a Line-counter reel may be somewhat your own desires/familiarity, but knowing the line distance can be critical, especially when flat-lining with a number of fisherpersons a board.  If you do not opt for Line-counters, then you will need some method of knowing accurately just how much line is out.  This can be counting the level-wind guide bar travel (over & back), however if fishing more than one person, the reels need to be the same make/model AND have the same amount of line spooled on the spool.  OR tie a bobber stop on the mainline of ALL reels at your desired distance.



He will normally use 10# mono mainline and 10# leader.  However has been experiment with 30-40# braid as a mainline, but has not made a decision yet, except it is hard to be consistent for an even release on a downrigger clip if less that 30#.  The one requirement for flat-lining is to use the mono line of the same diameter, so when more than fisherperson in the boat & doing this, with all the lures back the same distance AND DEPTH, this gives the fish an impression there is a school of food. 



Turn off Fish ID, use only fish pixels & adjust unit so you can even see line/lures in water.  If the fish are shallow, 30' or less, you will not see any on your sonar.  (1) that shallow your sonar cone is so narrow, you will only see them if you are right on top of them.  (2) The previous being said, your boat has already spooked the fish away.



He uses 3 different ones, (1) Sling Blade, (2) Simon Kokanee Dodger, & (3) an Arrowflash Dodger.  He leans toward the Arrowflash because it is thinner/lighter & can be bent to perform at about any speed.  However early in the season, (before the lake turns over and Thermocline sets in) the fish seem to not really care which one he uses.  Early he likes the smaller attractors.  Later on go up & be prepared to change colors if nothing is happening.



He tends to like the hoochie spinner type of lures.  This could have a spinner or SMILE blade.   One thing DO NOT HIDE THE HOOKS, leave the rear hook protrude a bit behind the hoochie.   FAST FORWARD  --- In 2016 Brad's Tackle came out with a smaller 2 1/4" Super Cut Plug called a KCP.  These have became very successful on Lake Merwin and Lake Chelan for Kokanee.



He likes to use size #4 hooks in Drop Shot style.   These Drop Shot hooks tend to have a wider & longer distance from the shank/eye, giving a better hooking/retaining ratio.  And tie the hooks close together.  However on the setup rod that was passed around through those in attendance, it had about a size #2 Sickle hooks on the lure. 



He did not really cover scent other than the normal Kokanee bait/scents, however one thing he uses occasionally is canned water-pack tuna mixed in with the Shoepeg corn as a scent.  He says that he can not find any real difference when using water or oil packed tuna, and the water pack dissipates a lot less contaminating oil on the surface of the water.



Initially he did not use downriggers, just used weights or divers and a LJ line angle/speed indicator to judge his depth of lures.  This worked great until one day he forgot it and was lost.


Now, he of course uses downriggers most of the time, but did not spend any time talking about them other than his drop back is usually 20' early in the season when the fish have not schooled up.  Later in the season, he will go back about 100'.  His theory is that with schooled fish, the cannonball will spook the fish when the lure is close, resulting in lesser hits.



He does not make the large "S", but changes speed to raise lower the lures.  His reason is by doing the "S" trolling pattern, only one side of the boat's rods will be "IN THE ZONE" at a time, but by controlling the lure raising/lowering, all his lures will be there at the same time with possible more hits.  So he ups his odds from 50% to 100%.


He likes to have a 3-4'  10# line between the snap on the end of the main line & the attractor.  This allows him, in case of a tangle to simply unsnap the mainlines from the lures, untangle & get back in the water as rapidly as possible.   Then another 8-10" again of 10# mono to the lure. 


Some prefer a snubber, but really only needed IF you are using a Gang Troll with a lot of drag & or a salmon type rod.  But if this is your bag of tea, then place it at the front, near the mainline snap, so that you do not restrict any action on the attractor or lure.



When not using a downrigger, OR in conjunction with one, a normal line weight would be 1/4 to 1/2oz.  Pick a line angle & stay with it.  When trying to go deeper without a downrigger you may have to go up to a 2 or 3 oz weight.


For those of you who want to fish Lake Merwin or any of the other reservoirs on the Lewis River in SW Washington, here is a link to the NOAA water level pool heights CLICK HERE.



Here is additional info written by Cameron in the 2016 Jan/Feb issue of CCA's Tide magazine.  Here he concentrates on Lake Merwin, and Yale reservoirs in Southwest Washington.


Many Washingtonians will be chasing larger salmon during mid summer up into winter, so Kokanee get put on the back burner.  But if you want to get into the best and bigger fish, consider fishing the spawn in early September and into October, head for these reservoirs, fishing off the small feeder streams, where these larger 3 to 4 year old fish will be holding readying for spawning.  Many of these will be nearing or over the 18" size."  And I suspect they will usually be aggressive.



Generally after this spawning event, the fishing on the lake will slow down, leaving the younger/smaller fish.  However it has been observed by him that a strange phenomenon has been happening in the last couple of years.  This usually happens in January when the weather is bad, but he has been into Kokanee larger than 17".   His question is why are these larger fish being caught in the winter and then disappearing in the spring?  This seems to go against all Kokanee literature and accepted knowledge.  There are a few local theories as to why this happens, and we may never know the answer, but catching these trophies is usually hard-earned, and still rare enough to keep us wondering.  I have a theory here, but will remain silent until I can personally do my own research.


His advice is the most important item you can use when trolling is to use an attractor or dodger, because there is a lot of water here and if you can draw some of the fish to you, instead of you to them, your odds will increase.  The old method was to troll Cowbells or Ford Fenders, however these have pretty well been replaced by a variety of dodgers.  Dodgers provide erratic action that brings the fish even closer to your lure.  Most anglers use small spinners or hoochies that are about 1" to 1 1/2" in length.  The key to using the newer dodgers is to run a 6" to 12" leader between the large dodger and the lure, as this shorter length increases the lure action, promoting more strikes.  The most productive colors are usually pinks, whites and oranges.  Anglers often tip the hooks of the lures with a piece of white shoepeg corn.   Why Kokanee prefer to strike these lures with the corn is a mystery, as there is nothing in their natural habitat that the lures replicate.


These fish are surprisingly aggressive in striking lures, just like their larger cousins offshore.  When you come across an active school, it is better to treat them as a school of tuna instead of salmon.  Keeping the lures close together will get you more hookups; as when one fish decides to attack a lure, others will follow suit if the baits are in the same area.  Therefore after the first hookup, leaving the fish on for a short time before reeling it in will attract the others to the rest of the lures.





Notes from Kokanee seminar @ Olympia Trout Unlimited 5-27-15
 Brianna Bruce, Fishing Guide
he is owner, operator & licensed guide of Livin' Life Adventures in Western Washington & is one of only a few licensed female guides in Washington State.  Growing up in Washington State and fishing her entire life, she has vast knowledge of fishing opportunities here.  Kokanee, salmon & Steelhead are some of her favorite specie.  She ties many of her own lures & appears very knowledgeable.  She loves to share her passion with everyone. Her website is http://www.livinlifeadventures.com/ & e-mail address gofish@livinlifeadventures.com.

Kokanee are basically a landlocked Sockeye salmon, & therefore do not get as large as ocean relatives.  They have large eyes compared to other specie, & forked tails.  The color of their back is a deep blue & have no distinctive spots.  Their large eyes make them light sensitive, so on a bright sunny day with no wind chop, you may have to fish deeper.

These fish will spawn on lake gravel bars or in small feeder creeks at an age of 3 to 4 years.

The peak of the season will usually be spring / summer however some lakes still produce during the spawning season (October / November).   American Lake March / July, while Lake Stevens starts a month later, & Clear Lake starts in May.

These fish will normally stay near the Thermocline as the lake warms up & the algae bloom becomes prevalent, with the most active fish just above it, however the larger fish may be in the lower part of it, but not as quite as aggressive.  The best water temperature that they like is in the 53 to 55 degrees F.

When fishing a new lake, or one that you have not been on for a while, look at your sonar & pick a water depth (say 60') then follow that contour.  If nothing happens, find another contour (90') & try that. Her normal speed will be .8 to 1.4 MPH, however it can vary 2 to 3 points either way depending on conditions.  Never troll in a straight line but make arcs or figure eights.  If you catch a fish going one way, you may not catch another by going right back over that location, so hit your GPS waypoint button & make a circle, then go right back over in the same original direction.

She likes Fethastik rods in from 7 to 8' but lighter soft sensitive tip.  For a newbie & not wanting to buy a special rod, a steelhead rod would work IF you use a snubber in front of your attractor to soften the rod's action.

She uses bait casting reels, usually the small high speed bass type reels & sets the drag REAL LIGHT.

10# mono is her standard mainline. She tried braid for a week, but got rid of it.  She ties 75' of fluorocarbon as a topshot onto the mainline.  Since she is not using a line-counter reel, this gives her a returnable indicator if she wants to drop the lure back to that predetermined distance.  Leader may be up to 15# which can extend the time between re-ties with the chance of a inline spinner blade clevis wearing the leader.

Do not try to have a clear clean screen to be able to see the fish, cut your sensitivity & you will have more clutter, but will have to learn what to look for.  Kokanee have a larger air bladder so show up different than other specie.  You should be able to see your downrigger balls if the sonar is set right.  Again if your sonar is adjusted right, you should be able to see the Thermocline, which could be a somewhat constant blue band anywhere from 25' to maybe 40'.

You may have to adjust your surface clarity if needed.

n lakes where there are larger predator fish (Lake Chelan) downsize the attractor. Most of her attractors appear to be #4/0 dodgers. With the sunny day she uses painted dodgers, & for overcast goes to her favorite Dick Nite purple striped UV one. Size of dodgers may increase on a overcast or windy day as well as changing to a UV one.

Wedding ring type single blade lures are her specialty, with the hooks ties close together on a 8-10" leader, however my notes also indicate 12" to 14"??. The preferred color of the beads for these lures are green or pink, OR gold & or silver.

She uses smaller blades & 4mm beads early in the season, upping to 6mm beads later. Later in the year, she will use / add 1 1/2" hoochies behind a Indiana or Smile blade & a leader of 20".

She also uses small spoons like the Triple Teaser or Dick Nites.

She runs smaller hooks that others, depending on the lake & the size of the fish, but maybe their closeness together is a plus. #4 or #2, or run #2 in front with #4 in the rear.

She did not mention a lot about scent, other than krill or garlic etc. However she drains off the liquid of Shoepeg corn, replacing it overnight with the liquid from oil packed tuna.  Then make yourself a tuna sandwich.  She puts one cornel of corn on each hook.  Also she always carries Berkley Gulp maggots & Gulp angleworms.

She uses downriggers most of the time so all the above info is geared toward that.  And uses a 6# weight, but could easily go to 4#, with 8# being the maximum.  Using the lighter weights allows the lure to raise higher on a turn.  She varies the downrigger depths in 10' increments.

Setback will be 30' for the top stacked rod with 50' for the lower rod clip about 5' above the ball.

When she is trolling with downriggers, set the reel's drag light. She uses the small Scotty DR clip, but tries to not set it loose enough for the fish to pop it off.  When hooked, reel down, point the rod down & pop the line out of the clip with the reel. If the fish comes to the surface & fights, poke the rod tip into the water, forcing them back down.  Her instructions on reeling in a Kokanee because of the soft mouth, is do it as if your wallet was what was hooked onto the lure.

Use a long handled landing net.

If you do not have downriggers, & flatline, probably no more than 1 oz sinker would be needed under normal conditions, depending on the amount of line you put out.

She keeps all her waypoints & changes the trail colors daily.



Notes from Seminar at the 2017 Portland Sportsman's Show
 Dave Jones of Davy Jones Fish Locker & Guide Service

Dave's Kokanee fishing is mostly on O'dell Lake in Eastern Oregon.  Where Jigging will usually be used early in the season (April), moving to trolling up until late August.


The peak of the season at Odell Lake is June or July. 


Time on the water is usually early mornings, (his guiding usually starts at 6AM).  On this lake the wind usually picks up in the afternoon, so they try to be off the water by 1 or 2PM.


His normal speed will be near 1 MPH, up to 1.4, depending on a lot of other conditions, wind etc. 


He recommends use of 7' to 7 1/2' rods in the line weight range of 4-10# range, (Loomis E6X would be one).  They need to have a sensitive tip but with backbone in the lower section.


He uses level line bait casting reels, and recommending line counter reels if long lining, but for downrigger fishing, any small level-wind reel that has a decent drag will suffice.  Many times you can buy one of these on sale for $40, however they will likely be an off brand.


10# Maxima Green mono is his standard mainline.  At the terminal end he first attaches a rubber squid head as a stopper so his clients do not pull the swivel up into the top guide, breaking the rod tip.  Above that he uses a #7 Sappo swivel to a  Duo Lock snap.


You do need to spend a fortune on your electronics, buy the best you can afford & learn to use it effectively.   Set it on manual adjust your sensitivity to where you could have surface clutter, but clear below as that is where you will be concentrating.  And when find fish, zoom into that depth, maybe 5' below to 10' above.  You will not be able to see many individual fish if  in 20' or so of water as your sonar cone angle will only cover possibly 6' at that depth.  Beyond 20' the angle opens up enough to be helpful.


He used a variety of attractors, ranging from sling blades in UV green or pink bone pattern, but says they as come from the factory have little action, so you need to bend them slightly at about 1/3rd from the rear.  Place them in the water at your trolling speed & check for action.  Here a little change goes a long way.  He also likes Arrowflash Dodger, which are a heavier unit, so needs a shorter leader.  Also the Vance dodger is one that is in his arsenal, where he likes UV gold.  For flat lining, he likes Ford Fenders with prism tape on the outside center of the blades.


He did not mention leader weight, but it seemed to be 10# mono.  He starts the season off with longer leaders (24") and as the season progresses (June on) could move downward to 10", even once to 7" when searching for biters.


He builds & sells his own wedding ring type spinner using dual trailing hooks & beads with a #2 or #3 Colorado blade.

Hoochie size length is also adjusted the same as leader lengths, depending on the season, going from 2" to 1 1/2" then to 1 1/4" at the end in the fall of the year.  The color of hoochies is preferred pink, orange, chartreuse or chartreuse with red head.


He did not mention hook sizes, but they appeared to be #2 or #4s.  Sharp hooks are a must.


The two most common scents are Mike's  Tuna/Garlic & Anis, or a combo of these.  He also uses  Berkley maggots, crappie niblets in either white or pink, even Pautzke salmon eggs.      


He uses Cannon downriggers with a 10# ball, & likes the line angle as steep as possible.  Stagger your downrigger ball depth by 5' from each other so you are not concentrating on the same water with both lures.


Many times he uses a large triple Willow leaf spinner setup attached directly to the downrigger ball, then the line back 6' to 12' secured by the release clip.  This gives the attractor in front of the lure, but not attached to it, for better control of the fish, creating less lost fish to the boat.


When using dodgers or sling blades, his normal setback from the release clip is 15' to 20' if fishing deep.  When fishing shallow (10' or less) his setback may be 5' to 100' to allow for spooked fish to re-congregate.    


For those who are on a budget or just want to try  a simple cheap substitute downrigger, purchase carpenters cord from The Home Depot, tie knots in it at intervals of 5 or 10' as method of marking your depth.  Attach a 2 to 3# cannonball on what will be your lower end.  procure a small line snap that will be attached to the line at the ball.  This snap should have possibly a 12" 60# + mono extension attached to a Kokanee release clip.  In use let your lure line out, say 6' to 10', attach the release clip to the line & hand feed it down (counting your knots) to your desired depth, possibly 40'.  Tie off the carpenters cord & you are fishing.


In Odell Lake, his normal starting depth if he has been away for a few days & does not know exactly where the fish are, is from 42' to 54'.


When running a downrigger & desiring to stack, the Shasta Tackle Shuttle Hawk is a timesaver.  These slide down the downrigger wire, to your predetermined depth (using a stop or measured line out).  These have a captivated metal ball inside, which when a fish hits & pulls the clip release off the line, the hawk will tip, 7 using the forward motion of the boat, rise instead of diving, brining the hawk to the surface.  The one suggestion he made & I have heard it before is to het a heave rubber band, put it on the hawk to ensure it stays on the wire after being tripped.


If you do not have downriggers, flat/long lining has it's benefits, even with using downriggers, one rod flat lining is a good idea.   However if using heavy or multiple spinners, (like Ford Fenders) with a plastic keel attached directly to the spinner unit & snap a 2 to 6 oz cannonball directly to the bottom hole.    Or  use the same weight salmon kidney sinker.  Be sure you let the line out slowly, even put the clicker on & hand feed out to prevent tangles.   Flat lining may not necessarily mean fishing the surface, that depending on the weight used.


Two things that he stressed, (1) is cleanliness.  Wash everything off with Lemon Joy.  But to clean the blades or attractors, use common Crest toothpaste, then the lemon joy.  Another item he uses to clean the cooler or fish box, or bilge is Cooler-D-Funk. (2) Hook your hooks sharp, or retie.  Even replace your leader on the wedding ring units after a hard day of usage, as any nicks or wear from the blade clevis can lead to a lost fish.


He likes snaps & swivels on all his gear, which makes things easier to rig & store.


The early season they do a lot of Jigging at Odell, but he did not cover it in this seminar because it does not seem to be used here in Washington a lot & with the time constraints of the seminar, left that off.




Notes from Seminar at the 2017 Portland Sportsman's Show
Kyle Nesser, owner of Crystal Basin Tackle and Guide Service

For this seminar, he was talking to experienced fisherperson for the most part, so left out many of the newbie topics that would be repetitive for them.


His normal speed over ground is normally from .5 to 1.5 MPH depending on conditions.


He likes  to use a 8' rod, as when guideing this helps put the line farther away from the boat when it pops off the downrigger using shorter booms.  He helped design a 4-10# Kokanee rod for Lamiglas that has a flexible semi-soft tip, but lots of backbone in the but section.   When using these light rods for downrigger fishing, the rod needs as many eyes as possible to keep the line from abrading itself on the rod body.  This also does not make him undergunned if fishing a lake where Lake trout or landlocked Chinook are present (like Chelan).


However, it is the author's observation that on different brands of these 7' rods, you can see from 7 to 9 eyes (not counting the tip).  This can be because of the flexibility (softness of the upper rod. 


12# McCoy mono is his standard mainline because it has a low memory & is very flexible.


Buy a good sonar, but any that you get, learn to use it.  Or instance to start with, set it for all manual operation, while on the water, set it so you have maximum sensitivity, which will present a black screen, adjust it until the screen becomes white, then back off to where you have surface clutter.  If the fish are showing at 50', adjust to where you only show the top 60'  then zoom  in to where you may be covering from 35' to 55'.  This will allow you to really see the fish you are targeting.  Adjust your sensitivity while you are over fish, his is usually set near 70.


Be sure your transducer is mounted correctly.  Do not assume that it needs to be parallel to the floor of your garage, boats usually sit on a trailer with the bow slightly higher.   the bottom of this transducer needs to be, usually slightly below the bottom of the boat at the location it is mounted on, Or slightly tilted down on the rear so if the boat is running, your signal will be bouncing back & intercepted by the transducer, not behind it. 


If you are running numerous rods with different gear, some attractors are speed specific, meaning they do not operate effectively outside of specific speeds.  This translates into you will need to use attractors that are compatible with each other.   He makes/sells his own attractor, which appears to be just a FST salmon spoon.   You can also adjust the sling blade or possibly a small dodger by bending it at the rear slightly as seen in the photo below.    He says as they come from the factory they are rather straight, with less action.  More bend, equals more action at a slower speed.  You will notice on this photo that a stick on eye was placed on the front of this attractor (not his idea but mine).


Here a sling blade has been bent at the rear to give more action


Also consider using the 4" Fish Flash as an attractor, but since these impart no action to the lure, do not use on wedding rings or hoochie lures with no action.    


He uses Maxima green as he likes a stiff leader in 8# or 10# size  (NO FLOROCARBON).  Lengths when using spinners typically are 12" to 20", longer in the spring or in colder waters.


The Hoochie Thing, his name for the patented diving head he makes, (also called the Wriggle Hoochie by others), work well using 24 to 36" leader as they have their own action.  Flatfish in size F5 to F7 in flame red, pink/chrome or the 2.5" Mag Lip in BFG (bleeding frog) color or a solid black with glitter, work well without any attractor ahead of them.


Also if the chance of larger fish could be available, he uses a Krippled Anchovy salmon trolling head.  However he adds a wire down the middle that can be used to bend the small herring bait to achieve the action he wants.


Wedding ring type lures work well when used behind a attractor.


If making lure or attractor adjustments put the gear in the water away from the boat to get a true reading.


Brad's is currently starting to produce a extra small Super Cut Plug called the KSP 2.25" (Kokanee Super Cutplug).  These have proven beyond expectations in the sample testing done by testers last year.  They should be on the market by May of 2017.


Pautzke maggots, worms or eggs also should be in you bag of tricks.  Shoepeg corn has been proven for Kokanee, but to enhance it, drain the can, divide it up into 1/4s in baby food jars, marinate in different salmon egg cures, leaving one uncured.  Refrigerate over night.  If one of these don't get a bite, try adding a drop or so of scent on the baited lure.


He did not mention hook size.


He likes Pro Cure scent in either or both gel or oil.  Each have their places.  The gel stays on longer during trolling.  But if using a lure where you can pack the scent in (like the brad's KSP) then the oil may work better as it leaks out better from the protected lure cavity.


When using downriggers in impoundments where you have the chance to catch lake trout or landlocked Chinook, it is wise to run one rod  10' to 15' deeper than the others, for the possibility of snagging one of the larger specie.


Even if you do have downriggers, long lining may save the day if the fish are high in the water column or in shallow water.  Here it is not uncommon to fish back 100' or more.



Notes from South Sound PSA meeting 3-5-2015
 Clint Sullivan, Longtime Kokanee Fisherman

Kokanee fishing is not a bankie situation, you need a boat to do this.  And these fish appear to like water temperature/depth in the 50 to 55 degree range.  They are basically plankton feeders and follow this food.  If the plankton is plant originated, it can only be moved in the water by current or wind.  However if it is animal originated, it will move around.  So once you find feed, you will be near the fish.


Be prepared to bleed & ice any fish that are caught ASAP.  This improves the table fare considerably.


His observations are to be on the water at first light, as the best catching is usually then, while mid-day fishing can produce, but not nearly as well as early mornings, while other fishermen who work, opt for fishing later in the day, (like after work) until dark.


These fish seem to be moody, in that what they actively hit one day, they may ignore the next.


Use a long handled landing net (larger than the standard trout size) and he likes the rubber bagged ones, for easier/faster release time, to get the gear back in the water sooner if the hooks get tangled.


Look at the fishing regs before you go, as many Kokanee lakes have different limits.  Some only 5, while others up to 16-20.



This could be anywhere from 1.0 mph to 1.5 mph, however depending on attractor a higher speed up into the 2 mph range may be required. 



The rods he uses are in the 7' range and light weight but stiffer heavy but section.  When he started fishing Koks, there was no specific Kokanee rod available, so he had a custom built rod made, which is his go to rod even today (even after 20 years).  Another rod he favors is the 7' or 7'6" Okuma SST Kokanee rod.



The standard Levelwind Ambassador reels work quite well for him, as he uses downriggers most of the time and if flat-lining, counting "Strips" works well for line distance out.  Or tie a "bobber Stop" onto the mainline at say 60' or 100', so you know your distance out.



He will normally use 6# mono mainline and 4# leader for non spinner baits.  This light line kind of forces the newbie's thoughts into being more gentle.  If he adds a spinner blade to the leader, he will up the weight to 15# to compensate for the abrasion of the clevis.



He did not say much about sonar usage in this seminar.



His main attractor is the Les Davis dodger and in what appears to be a #3 (about a 4" size).  He has not had a lot of luck finding the ones he wants locally, so has to go online for them.   Early in the year, he likes the smaller attractors fishing higher in the water column.  Later on, go up & be prepared to change colors if nothing is happening.   When using lures that do not have any self motion, tie the leader 2 1/2 times the flasher length.


He also uses gang trolls using either 3 or 4 smallish (3/4") blades and stabilized by a small keel rudder.  I even saw a mini gang troll consisting of 3 blades immediately in front of the dodger.


He has not had any luck using the "Fishing with Gary's" system 2 attractor, which looks like a large salmon spoon.  In contacting Gary, he was told to increase his trolling speed.



His lure arsenal included simple wedding ring type lures with 2 hook rigging.   I did see some hoochie type of lures and small Dick Nite spoons (of many colors) on a foam spool.  


Now the question of them hitting lures imitating fish comes up.  One writer who says that Kokanee are territorial, explains it like blackbirds chasing off crows from near their nests.  OK, if this is the case what if in this case, they mouthed a smaller fish?


In a later conservation with Clint as to the above,  YES, he said that in a discussion with a fish biologist, the subject of Kokanee eating small fish was discussed.  The bio said yes, on occasion they will, but did not define SMALL.  I would guess that if per chance they did attach a smaller fish than they, in trying to chase it off, that once in it’s mouth they would not likely spit it out (depending on the size).   May even be hungry enough to try on an empty belly if no plankton was available like in winter.



He likes to use size #4 Circle hook style.  In going to this style, he has had a way higher fish retention into the boat.   And if using bait, do not bait the rear hook but leave it bare.  



One of his baits is the standard Shoepeg corn.  He drains it off the night before and separates into different containers, adding anis to one & shrimp to the other, then let marinate over night.  He also uses Berkley Gulp maggots in white or pink color.  These are small, but only use ONE and on the front hook.


He recommends talking to other fishers either on or off the water.  And he has learned that some even dip their lure in Karo syrup or Vanilla flavoring.



Notes from Video to Northwest Kokanee Addicts
 Sam Baird of Slammin Salmon Guide Service

 Sam does his Kokanee fishing on Lake Chelan and pretty well has it dialed in.  He is very active on  Northwest Kokanee Addicts Facebook website sharing a lot of valuable information.


His presentation was more directed toward "Understanding the Kokanee" and directed to the already committed Kokanee fisherperson, then trying to get that person to think NOT like trout fishing, that we addicts gravitated from.  He was trying to teach how to fish Lake Chelan in the manner that you need to think like a salmon (landlocked Sockeye Salmon).  They have cycles just like their ocean going cousins, but are constrained in an impoundment, and transition from one cycle to the other depending on the time of the year and the water temperature. 


In this lake, their uplake migration in the fall from is usually August to December to the upper lake to spawn in the small feeder streams.  It seems to not be one mass migration.


Fishing the early season (December to February) they may still be upper/mid lake, but may start migrating downstream.  They will be in a water temperature that is comfortable to them, meaning at that time of the year DEEP (100' to even 200') & feeding on krill/shrimp.   In fishing for them then, match the hatch with natural scent, and troll SLOW.  If that doesn't work go to large lures, big hoochies, Brad's Super Cut plugs, & large attractors & at near 1.2 MPH.


Come March, the water may warm up & the fish will move up in the water column.  At that time of the year the fish from Mitchell Creek/25 Mile Creek tend to be smaller & more aggressive, where the larger fish seem to be farther downlake.  So by mid March, most of the fishing will be concentrated off the Monument or the State Park.  At this time, they seem to prefer smaller presentations, but more action, like shorter leaders (2 times the attractor length) or speed up to possibly 1.4 MPH (same lure results).


It seems that when they are traveling, they do not have anything else on their  minds & tend to be non-biters.


These fish travel in age groups, and small fish tend to lead the migration, so if you are only catching small fish, they move downlake following food, so you need to move looking for another school, farther uplake.    When they are on the move, they are not really biting.   The main feeding grounds from March or so will be downlake, but their travels slow down as they near these feeding grounds (Rocky Point or The Blue Roof).   Downsize your lures but with a lot of action here by speeding up the boat or shortening the leaders.


Then July & August they start to migrate uplake again to the spawning grounds near Stehekin. 


In the later season, for scents, add Anis to your krill.  He likes to mix his scents by using 3, (Krill, Anis, Herring) thinking this increases his odds.  


Also in this late season, larger lures work, even line the 3" Brad's Super Cut Plugs.  For scents then he adds Garlic, thinking it is not natural & salmon seem to hate it, so they strike out of a aggression/defensive mode.


He has been moving away from downriggers if the fish are 60' or above because fishing using lead  sliders has proved easier & faster for his clients than restricted to the downrigger.  He only fishes 4 rods, two 9' light salmon rod off the bow & two 7' Velocity Ninja rods off the rear.  He uses line-counter reels, (Okuma Coldwater low profile).  Line is mono with a 8mm soft bead first (to protect the rod tip eye), then a small Danielson plastic slider, another 8mm soft bead to protect the knot.  A swivel to 24" or 36" 20# Maxima Ultra Green extension to a 5 1/2" sling blade.  Behind that a 36" 15# P Line leader to a Brads 2.5" KCP.  Sinkers run from 2 to 4 oz, with the heavier ones on the front.

 Below is Sam's "Secret" formula to cure Shoepeg corn

1 can of Shoepeg corn, drained
1 TBS   Pautzke Firecure
1 TBS         "       Fire Dye
1 TBS  Garlic SALT
add just the oil off can of Tuna

keep refrigerated, or on ice


Here Sam has defined his Lake Chelan fishing reference points for the lower lake



Notes from Seminar at the 2018 Portland Sportsman's Show 

Jeff Witkowski, guide with Darrell & Dads Guide Service

Jeff's presentation was centered around Lake Chelan, where he guides over 200 days a year, mainly for Lake Trout and Kokanee.  His perspective has a few special things relating to fishing this impoundment, that being the water is clear and deep, along with the fact that when fishing deep there is a distinct opportunity to hook into a Lake Trout or Landlocked Chinook salmon, so his gear may be a bit heavier than if fishing other lakes/reservoirs.

Remember he is a guide and needs to have tackle that even non-fisherpersons can operate, so SIMPLE IS BETTER.



About all of us have been ingrained in that Kokanee have soft mouths.  He said that he has examined about every fish's mouths and can not find any real difference in Kokanees.  He believes this "Old Wives Tale" originated back to the early Kokanee fishing days where the fishermen used a lot heavier rod and subsequent weight to get the lure down to the deeper depth, therefore they could not really feel the fish and just cranked them in.  And when brought close to the surface these fish seem to act much like a Coho salmon, rolling and jumping, thereby creating a very good chance of pulling the hook out.



About all of his fishing is done using downriggers, which in the spring and summer will  usually be fished at the 30' to 40' depth.  Then winter months where the fish are, even to 200' down.  In this lake the water is so clear he can see a lure down 50' or more.



He trolls slower than most Kokanee fisherpersons, like from .75 to 1MPH.  However if not bites occur within his time frame, he will speed up even to 1.8MPH.   This slower speed dictates that he use different gear than normal Kokanee fishermen at times that, but his most GO TO is Smile blades set up as "wedding ring" style that rotate at a lot slower speed than some spinner blades.  


The use of sonar is so important in finding schools of fish at what ever depth they are that without it you are like running blind.   When finding a school of fish, he tries to drop his gear to 3' above those fish.  He attaches his downrigger clip right onto the cannonball weight.


The is not to be confused with using the old lead line, or with "Long Lining" but using a lead weight on the line to possibly fish slightly shallower than you would normally with a downrigger.  Here he may run downriggers off the rear for going deep and lead lining off the sides.  Depending on the weight size, you can get a greater depth spread.  The lead can be attached directly inline on the mainline just ahead of the end swivel (if not overly large, an ounce or so), OR if needed to go deeper, as a detachable sinker unit as seen in the photo below. 


Both of these units seen below with weight attached and a weight heavy enough to get you a steep angle attached to the mainline.  In use, set your drop back with the lure to what ever distance you want, (say 50'), reset your line counter reel to zero.  And let out your line the distance you want deep by reading your line counter.   When the fish hits, slowly reel in, bringing this weight unit aboard enough for your or partner to trip the line, freeing up any encumbrance to then be direct to the fish.  One tip here would be to allow more distance (possibly up to 50' +) from this weight to the lure so that to not excite the fish if too close to the boat as you release the weight.

In the photo below, the unit on the left, (black and yellow) is available from Cabela's, and labeled as Pressure Lock Snap, and come in a package of 4.  The release on the right is from Mack's Lures and labeled their Ultra Release.


Here, we see a couple of quick detachable line sinkers


He does make the large "S" curves when trolling, which gives indication if one side is catching or not because of the raising and lowering of the lures when doing this, then allowing him to adjust if one side is then too high or low.    But he ALSO occasionally makes a "Crazy Ivan", which is a 90 degree sharp angle, which makes the inside lure almost stop dead, while being observant so as not to tangle the gear in the water.  Also about everyone trolls lengthwise with the lake, however if you troll crosswise, you stand a better chance to intercept suspended fish, as their feed may be at different distances off the bottom.


When a rod pops off, do not grab and set hook, but point the rod tip down and reel down, while maintaining contact with the fish, reel slow, maintaining tension.  As the fish comes near surface, drop rod tip low and direct the fish by leading it.  DO NOT POINT ROD TOWARD FISH.  DO NOT BRING FISH'S HEAD OUT OF THE WATER.



The rods he uses are Cousins 7' and 9', with the longer rods off to the sides for lead lining.  However his comment was you don't really need a $200 rod, the old yellow fiberglass Wright & McGill 7 1/2 trout rods (or the newer Kokanee version) still work quite well and can be found on sale occasionally for $19.95 at times.

Here he uses longer 8' or 9' rods with line-counter reels and fished off the sides, outside the downriggers.


The reels he uses on downriggers are usually Ambassadeur standard level winds.  He did mention using bobber stops on his mainline to act as line out indicators.  For the lead line usage he does use line-counters,



He normally uses braid mainline, but with a 46' mono topshot.  He did not specify, but my guess was about 40# braid and 20' Maxima topshot.



One thing he pointed out is "leader length- how do you measure it"?   All of his leaders were tied to a swivel.  His method of measuring was from the swivel of the dodger to the FRONT of the lure, NOT to the point, bend or rear of the rear hook, but the front of the lure, so HIS 8" may relate to someone else's 12" or more.  This being the case. it appeared that this distance was near to 8".  He rolls his leaders on a 2 1/2" section of foam.  The unique thing he does is to use round toothpicks stuck at 90 degrees into the foam that go into the swivel eyes to hold the tied leaders on instead of tucking the loose end under the previous wraps.


His leaders are 20# Maxima, because of the chance of hooking into a Lake Trout or Landlocked Chinook.  He debunks the idea of Kokanee being leader shy in trolling for them.  All the underwater videos show the fish coming in from behind and in doing it this way, they are not anywhere near even seeing a heavy leader when concentrating on the lure.  Plus the heavier leader impacts a better lure action from the dodger's side to side movement.


He seemed to use both sling blades, and Mack's Double D.  When using the sling blades, he bends the rear a slight amount to give more "KICK" to the lure.  The sling blades will work at a faster speed if that is what it takes to induce a bite.  


In using the Double Ds, he uses the small one probably 90 % of the time.  He did say that if using the side attachment holes, these would run outward about 7' with 100' of line out.  He likes them because they seem to have an irregular skip beat part of the time, which can trigger a bite.  He says these dodgers can handle speeds as slow as 1 mile per hour up to 1.8.



His lure arsenal included simple wedding ring type lures with 2 hook rigging.    He did not really mention using the Brads KSCP, so maybe that was another of his secrets.


He did mention, "When is the time to change lures?"   It is hard, but the real time is when you are having a hot bite.  If you do it in a slow time, you will never really know how effective the new lure is.


He also believes that a fish is hooked or it is not, God decides this.  However his hook to landing ration is at 75%, so I believe his hook size is one contributing factor here.



He likes to use size #2, but more #1, which are way larger than most fisherpersons.  Part of this he believes in using more than one cornel of corn on a hook, even up to 3.  His thoughts are if you only use one and get a biter, that corn is gone, but if you use multiple corns, on both hooks, you just upped your odds considerably along with not needing to pull a deep trolled now empty bait up from 200'.


His hooks are Gamakatsu for the front and Matsu sickle for the rear.



He has used Pro Cure for so long that to him there really is no need to change.  He uses corn a lot of the time, and will use it plain, or with Pro Cure anis.  He will separate the corn into 2 or 3 separate containers so that each may have a different scent.  He did mention (in passing, but did not delve into it) the scent named Carp Spit, again made by Pro Cure in either a liquid or gel) being smelly ugly (partly derived from ground up angle worms).  Maybe this was one of his secret weapons.



He uses the large Scotty downrigger clips and puts the line (mono) into the lips about 1/4".


He also seems to be somewhat superstitious, as he said you will NEVER catch a fish if the downrigger, or line out is at an UNEVEN number.



Jeff Witkowski's Lake trout lure for Lake Chelan

2.8" chartreuse smile blade
green hoochie
Glo corkie
pike Minnow meat



My Humble Observations ::  These above seminars were all just an hour long and many had over 100 attendees, not really enough time to educate a person with little (if any) Kokanee experience.  Sometimes the audience questions were as good or better than what the speaker initially put forth.  Some of these speakers had well laid out programs ands stuck to them, then others had a program, but seemed to not follow it well and just talked, giving info, but this seemed to be directed to a more experienced fisherperson.


The friend mentioned above, does a lot more reading than I, has quoted, in a 1903 book written by Mr. Buzzacott, who admonishes fishermen to "pay attention to your hooks and baits; those are what catch the fish."   This seems very appropriate here as the type of boat, rods, reels and line are really secondary.  Select your hooks to match the task and keep them sharp.  Baits just adorn the hooks and while every bit as important as the hook, they can be readily changed, while the hooks may tend to be overlooked, while being in plain sight.  It may be to our best interests to evaluate the style and size of hooks we use in relationship to our hookup/landing ratios.  Mr. Buzzacott also said, “To understand the owl, learn about the mouse”.  But when trying to put this in perspective in relationship to understanding Kokanee, in this case, “the mouse” appears to be incredibly elusive.   This may be because the "mouse" has been portrayed as plankton which would be hard to effectively duplicate as a lure.  This being so, why do Kokanee strike a lure resembling something larger, even an aquatic bug or small fish?   Is it out of a territorial instinct, or have Kokanee over time, transformed into also being a cannibalistic creature similar to a trout in order to survive?  If this is so, it might shed some light on why Kokanee in one impoundment have different feeding habits as compared to other impoundments because of a certain hatchery or natural reproduction. ???


To me, it seems that Kokanee fisherpersons (with use of the new internet highway) seem to be scatter-shooting on the subject of bait or attractors and bait.  I am not saying that all the lures being made/sold/used are bad, but I have not seen any explanation, for a design which deviates (with data to back it up) from “Plankton Feeders” lures.  I have personally seen where trout and landlocked Coho/Chinook will feed on plankton, why not the reverse with Kokanee? 

One important thing is if you catch a fish, (remember these are schooling fish) with modern electronics, mark your GPS with a waypoint. Swing around before going too far and go back over that location.    DO NOT LEAVE FISH to find fish.   Most Kokanee fisherpersons will have transitioned from trout fishing.  Probably the one most problem in this transition, is that fisherpersons may not realize they are fishing for salmon now instead of trout.  The game is different as the fish are different.  It may take a lot of experimenting on your own to become even somewhat productive.  OK, a blind squirrel may find an acorn occasionally.  Read everything you can get your hands on pertaining to Kokanee fishing.  Use the internet to find Kokanee forums, and lurk a lot.  Go to and sign onto Northwest Kokanee Addicts Facebook website.


Why is one lake (American Lake near Tacoma, WA.) a lot later with the bite coming on in the spring as compared to others unless it is fed by many springs? 


You will also see some fisherpersons recommend a line weight of 6# or 8#, while others may opt for 12# or even 15#.  This could be that the impoundment that the heavier line fishermen are frequenting, my also have landlocked Chinook salmon or even Lake Trout, where they feel they need a bit heavier line to accommodate and land an occasional larger fish.  And when trolling, the fish come in from behind the attractor and lure, so there is very little chance of them seeing heavier line/leader.


It also seems that Kokanee fishing is about like many other sports/professions, and that is if a person has done IT a few times, then they are seemingly an expert (especially in their own eyes).  And with the advent of the internet, you will soon be inundated with words of wisdom.  Some good /some not so good, some being just a repeat from hearsay.  I know as, in my early time trying to improve my knowledge, I have read a number of Kokanee books and visited a considerable number of websites.  Most of the websites are good, if you take into account the fact many are there as a sales platform for items being sold by the site owner.   Early on, one book that I purchased on Kokanee fishing, being toted to be good, was an absolute waste of money.  The author was toted as having written a couple of hundred articles or books, therefore seemingly a professional writer, but on this book he gathered the bulk of his "knowledge" for this book by interviewing others and with very little personal experience himself.  However in modern times, the information bank (internet) has flattened enough that even the novice's learning curve is considerably shorter. 


And you need to realize that many of the attractors or lures seem to be made to catch fisherpersons, then in actuality, the older standby lures may have caught that fish as well.  When something new comes out that the manufacturers hand pick experts testers, the word gets out and when the final product hits the market, it can be presold for months.  That is good for both the manufacturer and the fishers, but in reality that little old guy who fishes alone in his 12' aluminum boat and old 6hp Johnson, using his tried and true lures, may catch the same number fish, trolling right alongside of the new bigger boat and new fancy lures.


As a speaker chairman for a local fishing club, I soon learned, that just because a person may catch a lot of fish or may be a excellent fishing guide, he may not be able to put forth usable information as a public speaker even in his chosen profession.  And if you are trying to make a point, but can not get it across in in less than a minute, you are wasting a lot of time, or you need graphics, either paper or from a projector.  Some people do a lot of talking but say very little (as do politicians).  This also can be true as an author of a fishing book, or even someone on a fishing forum.  If you attend a fishing seminar, TAKE NOTES.   It helps if you try to read / listen to, anything you can get your hands on, then try it yourself on YOUR lake/impoundment and draw your own conclusions. 


If you are like me, I will not live long enough trying to learn many of the small things that would go into making me even a marginally successful Kokanee fisherman all by myself.  Therefore I found that taking in seminars, really speeds up the process.  Take notes, when you get home, go over these notes and write them out, while it is still warm in your mind.  Seek out seminars that are within a reasonable travel distance, or go back to a sportsman's show the next year, even to the same speaker, you will add more to your knowledge bank,  (maybe small, but possibly important things that you overlooked the first time) or you, being more informed then be able to ask a few needed questions.   You will note of the above speakers, there is something different in all of them, maybe nothing really dramatic, but possibly enough that when you consider all of them, you may add another partial page in your arsenal's notebook.


One question is why do the fish in one body of water prefer different lures or colors?  My guess is that maybe there is (1), Different water temperatures  (2) Different water clarity  (3) Different algae/plankton concentrations which can effect water clarity. (4) Even different weather conditions, (wind for one) which can effect plankton locations (feed). (5) Different food, (color/size/etc.)  (6) Mineral or Alkali concentrations in the water, plus a few that this newbie has not yet even been exposed to.  Or as said above, have Kokanee over time, transformed into also being a cannibalistic creature similar to a trout in order to survive?   Or do they strike larger lures out of territorial insticnts?


Some lakes have a generous limit for Kokanee.  What has been found is that IF there is not enough food, and in certain locations there is a very good enough natural reproduction of these critters, the high quantity of food that these fish eat so much of the available food that they starve the whole population.  On these lakes/reservoirs, DO NOT practice "Catch and Release", as you need to cull out as many as you can, hopefully increasing the food supply for others who may grow larger and more desirable.  Remember these fish only have a normal life span of 2 to 3 or possibly 5 years, so putting back a 10"er to grow will not produce a 10# record before it dies.


One thing I have found in any TROLLING fishery, is that if you are missing/loosing fish, go UP in your hook size.  Here in this fishery, a #2 or a #1 are not overly large.


If you are using a downrigger here, your weight will be considerably less than if in saltwater, as you will usually be fishing slower and shallower, plus will be using a lot lighter gear.  The rule of thumb is 1lb for every 10' in depth, so it's based on where you plan to fish.  So instead of using a 12# ball, even going to a 40 oz. (2 1/2#) ball may work if you do not go too deep.  If you need to go deeper than 50' then maybe a 4# or even a 6# weight may be better.  If you are fishing Lake Chelan where you may need to be considerably deeper, then a 10 or 12#er may be in order.


And some fishermen contend that a unpainted lead downrigger ball spooks the fish, and many let out 100' or more line behind the clip.  This does have some benefits, if the boat, and or the ball spooks fish, the drop-back distance gives the fish a chance to move back if that is where they were feeding.  Others paint the downrigger weight a dark color instead of the shiny new lead color, which could be mistaken for a larger predator.


In the photo below the pipe weights were made from 1 1/4" ID aluminum tubing and pouring it full of lead.  The 8" length comes out just over 5# while the 10" is right at 6#.  The reason for this style of weights is that if you frequent reservoirs, you may encounter shallow areas (off a point) where the fish are feeding, BUT also may abound with underwater stumps that tend to consume expensive standard round downrigger cannonballs.  These long slender weights tend to be a lot more forgiving if they encounter stumps/root-wads.  You will also note the attachment eye is shaped in a large Vee, again to not get hung up, but to slide over an object.

Also shown are a 40 oz. cannonball and a 5# downrigger ball with a fin.   All being used for Kokanee, but the 40 oz. only as a spare or if fishing down to maybe 25'.


Here you see 2 home-made 4# & 6# Kokanee Downrigger weights mentioned above.  A 40 oz. cannonball & a 5# regular Downrigger weight on the bottom


However if you DO NOT have a downrigger, or simply do not want to be bothered, YET, you still have the chance to catch fish, by using a weight and adjusting you distance of line out and weight to achieve the proper depth.   Here it is best to use a weight slider (sometimes called a sturgeon or catfish slider).  These can be made of plastic or brass and slide on the mainline.  The main objective is to, when a fish is hooked, to allow it to be free of being connected directly to the weight.  Here the slider can travel up the mainline if the fish runs or fights.  This is illustrated in the photo above, showing the slider/weight and the relationship of a flasher/dodger and the lure.  The weight usually would be from 4 to 8 oz, or even lighter depending on conditions.  Distance out can be determined by the graph shown in the beginning of this article using line angle and distance.  Distance can be by counting "PULLS" (from the reel to 1st rod eye, or about 24") or by using a small line counter reel.


The normal distance of a non self attracting lure (wriggle hoochie or spinner) is 2 1/2 times the length of the dodger.  For a hoochie or fly then shorten it to even 8" or so, but governed by how much movement the dodger imparts to the lure.  Some dodgers like some sling blades, can be tweaked (bent) to give more of a motion or "kick" to the lure.


Here is the typical slider/sinker setup using a Dodger


Then a cheap man's downrigger can be made by purchasing a carpenters line from The Home Depot, tie a large swivel snap on the bottom end, or directly to a cannonball from 16 to 40 oz.  Then tie knots, or mark this line at 5' intervals.  Onto the end of the line at the ball, attach a downrigger snap and line release.  At the trailing end will be the line release.  Treat it as a manual downrigger (but hand lining it), except let the line out your desired distance, going from your knots or markings.  When there, tie it off to a cleat, set your rod in a rod holder, reel your line in to take up the slack and you are off and running. 


And addition to this would be use the butt section of an old broken salmon rod and an old non-level wind salmon reel as your simple portable downrigger, by mounting it into a rod holder.


In the photo below, the distances were shortened because of the photo constraints, but you can get the idea of how it is setup.  Here the cannonball is 20 oz.

Here is a "Poor Mans Downrigger"


 I have been slightly confused over the availability and different names of the same lure being used for Kokanee.  So at a the 2015 Portland Oregon Sportsman's Show, I had the opportunity to clarify this.  There are three companies here in the Pacific NW selling a diving squid lure.  They are sold by Crystal Basin Tackle calling them the "Hoochie Thing",  Rocky Mountain Tackle goes under "Billfish Squid" and  Shasta Tackle uses the name "Wriggle Hoochie".  All these are the same item. 


 Shasta Tackle was sold to Macks Lures in late 2016 and has been really upping their product line toward Kokanee fishing.


There are some Kokanee addicts that have been experimenting with using Planer Boards, which makes a lot of sense, especially for early season fishing where the fish may tend to stay in the top 20' or so of water.   However we do not hear much about this on the forms.  That tells me maybe it is a secret that they have not divulged yet.

Planer boards are designed to give you a wider spread, especially where numerous fisherpersons are on board, (1) in an effort to avoid line tangles, (2) to cover more water, or to decrease the effect of the boat spooking the fish.  They are made in Right Hand (Port side) and Left hand, (Starboard side).  Most of these will be fished out and slightly rearward, up to 100' or so in each direction.  One consideration, they are not conducive to be used in congested fishing areas, and are usually made in colors, and may have flags on them that can be readily seen by other boaters.


These usually can not be fished deep like a downrigger, but when used in conjunction with downriggers give the fishermen better full converage.


There are basically two types of planer boards, INLINE and ONLINE.  The difference is for the inline, the board is usually smaller and is attached directly to the fishing mainline.  When a fish hits the lure, the line is pulled out of a clip (a small downrigger clip), but the board is attached to the mainline and when reeled in, getting it near the boat, it is disconnected by a quick release.  You then fight the fish on the line that is (was) behind the board.  These can be fished from about any small boat with no extra equipment. many of these will have a tell tale flag which can indicate when a fish has hit the lure.


The Online needs a mast or some sort of higher, forward attachment unit, (needed to be high enough to give a direct line to the boards and not drag in the water), and usually with a large reel storing heavy cord.  These cords are attached to larger boards and can be ran out say 100'.  Now the downrigger release clip is attached to a shower curtain clip, the mainline is let out to your desired distance, snapped into the release clip and then the shower clip is snapped ONTO the planer board cord.  It is then payed out to what distance away from the boat you desire, even numerous clips/lines at different distances can be ran.  In use when a fish pops the line off the release clip, reel it in, but you do not have to pull in the board, just add another shower curtain clip to the cord to the board and let it slide out, leaving the tripped release there until you run out of exrtras or pull the board in.


Some of these boards designed to be used for salmon, stripers or walleye are made from pine or cedar and usually 2 parallel boards bolted together, being possibly up to 3' in overall length.  In use it is obvious that planer boards do not compete with downriggers, but compliment them, giving more coverage.

Here is an example of a ONLINE unit fishing Here we see typical INLINE boards in use



Here is a larger Port side planer board




This Page Under Construction as new information is gathered


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Copyright © 2015 - 2018 LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved


Originated 01-23-2015, Last updated 06-03-2018
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Rick Kennedy, one of the top guides in northern California is the owner/guide of Tightlines Guide Service


My most productive recipe is nothing more than a can of white Shoepeg corn, Pautzke Fire Cure and Nectar®.  

It’s a simple, straightforward recipe that anyone can master and yields fantastic results.


Here’s what I do:

Step 1:  Dump one can of white shoepeg corn in a one gallon Ziploc bag. (Do not drain juice.)

Step 2:  Add approximately one tablespoon of Fire Cure to the bag. (Color varies, by choice.)

Step 3:  Add one-half cup of un-chlorinated water.

Step 4:  Seal the bag, mix it and place in cooler/refrigerator.  Leave overnight.
Step 5:  Drain liquid. Place corn on several paper towels.  Pat extra moisture off.

Step 6:  Place back in container (Ziploc bag, Tupperware, etc.) and add a few teaspoons of red Pautzke Nectar.  The corn is ready to fish.



One of the most important parts of this process is achieve good, vibrant colors.  Fire Cure is serving as our dye;  Nectar your scent.

 You can adjust the color by the amount of Fire Cure you sprinkle on and how long you leave the corn in the Ziploc with it before you drain the juice out.

The more you put in and the longer you leave it in the darker it gets.  And, the tougher the corn gets.   

It’s important to remember that Fire Cure has sulfites in it and everyone knows how well salmon take to sulfites.  

That’s another reason why I put the Fire Cure in my corn.

The only bad part about this process is the limited selection of the colors of Nectar.  I use red Nectar because they don’t make pink.  

There are four colors of Fire Cure (red, pink, natural and orange).  And, here’s how I utilize them.

-Red Fire Cure = Red Shoepeg Corn

-Pink Fire Cure=Pink Shoepeg Corn

-Natural Fire Cure=Keeps Shoepeg Corn in its natural state.

-Orange Fire Cure= Orange Shoepeg Corn

Often, I invest in colors that aren’t part of this spectrum.  And, when I do I turn to natural Fire Cure.  

If I want yellow, purple or blue corn I’ll use the natural Fire Cure and then use yellow, blue or purple Nectar to dye/scent it.  

For orange I’ll use orange Nectar.  Obviously, for the red corn, I’ll use red Nectar.

Why do I use the Nectar?  Nectar adds sweetness to the shoepeg corn, to which I know Kokanee are attracted.

Pautzke Nectar has been used to create feeding frenzies with salmon for longer than I’ve been alive.

Note: Just because you cure it doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep it cool.  Leaving it in warm temperatures for extended periods will spoil the corn and turn it to mush.  Thus, keep it cool.




   Tony Pollack's Kokanee Chum Formula 

  4 scoops wheat meal

  2 scoops blood meal

  2 scoops oyster shells (small)

  2 scoops bone meal

 1/2 scoop rock salt

  mix in small amount of water to a mild dry mix