Many anglers have never heard of the kokanee salmon or have had the pleasure of catching one. However, those lucky enough to find one on the other end of their line will likely remember the experience for a lifetime.
Kokanee salmon are the landlocked version of the sockeye salmon. They spend their adult lives in landlocked in cold-water lakes; after 3 to 5 years, adults migrate into nearby streams to spawn and the fry return to the lake to repeat the process. They are most common in British Columbia and the Northwestern United States but have been introduced in both the Midwest and New England areas as well. The average kokanee salmon only reaches between 1 & 5 pounds, making them a favorite for light tackle anglers. Although they will feed on small freshwater shrimp and krill, their primary source of nutrition is zooplankton.
There are two main methods for finding kokanee; trolling and drifting live bait. Because they typically inhabit the deeper parts of the lake, where the zooplankton is more plentiful, a boat is almost always needed.
What you will need
Targeting kokanee does not require any special gear. Chances are you already have most, if not all, of what you will need from your pursuit of other species.
7' to 8' Medium Light or Light Action Rod
Level wind reel spooled in 4-8 LB test
Downriggers – 4 to 8 LBS
Tips - Remember that rainbow trout, or other similarly sized trout depending on where you fish, feed on kokanee. Do not select lures that are too big or resemble species that may be a natural predator as it will scare the school away. Many anglers find tipping the lure with scented corn improves the catch rate.
Ultra-light or light rod
1000 series spinning rod spooled in 1to 6 LB test. You can substitute 10 LB braided line for 4 LB monofilament.
Bait – favorites are dyed shrimp or krill
Rigging live bait – use a three-way swivel with one eye tied to the mainline, second to the leader with hook and third with weight on short leader. You do not need the rig to sit on the bottom, but you must use enough weight to get the bait deep enough to reach the trout. Once the bait is in the strike zone, it is almost like live lining.
Kokanee Recommended Lure
Dozens of effective lures will catch plenty of Kokanee salmon. Still, I am only going to list a couple of the super-productive artificial baits that will help you boat more fish.
Pro-Troll Kokanee Killer - Make for a deadly bait that has proven productive over the years. The spoon style lure gives off superb vibration and action while allowing the angler to add corn to the trailer hooks for an even more enticing presentation. You can slow troll or cast them. Chartreuse, silver, and pink are always good "go-to" colors.
Mini Mag-Head Hoochie - Looking for a bladed bait that has a wicked flashy skirt? Look no further than the hoochie. This bait provides everything you need to entice a bite. Tie your leader short for more action and add a flasher or dodger to seal the deal. Practical but straightforward and cost-effective.
Compared to its cousin, the sockeye salmon, the kokanee is tiny. But what the fish lacks in weight, it more than makes up for in attitude. Many anglers consider it one of the hardest fighting trout, pound for pound in North America. Add that you will be using light tackle at extreme depths, and you can rest assured you will be more than pleased with this unknown underdog.
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