Kokanee tips and perch kudos

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In my last column, I was sharing some information about our abundant kokanee salmon and trolling for them in the fall, arguably my favorite time to fish the Flathead Valley.

As our water temperatures cool, the lakes become less and less crowded, and we anglers get the peace and solitude we have missed for the last three to four months. Many of our more sought-after species in the valley become more active and the kokanee is at its peak condition as it gets ready to spawn.

I ended that last column speaking of three main fundamentals — fresh bait, scents and watching your trolling speed, which for kokanee tends to be in the 0.8 to 1.4 mph range. Common baits for kokanee are corn, maggots and a piece of worm. I like to even mix this up from time to time, usually when the bite gets tough. Liberal use of a glow, shrimp scent is also important. Speed can be least critical, but on some days, even two- to three-tenths makes all the difference.

When trolling, your electronics are your best friend, especially if you need to quickly locate the schools, and more importantly, keeping your lures just above the fish. If you are able to run more than two or three lines, experiment with depth, style and color of the lure until you find the zone they are biting at and then adjust to the bite.

I like to keep my setbacks for kokanee quite short, most days no farther than 25 to 30 feet behind the downrigger ball, staggering my middle lines a little farther back. If running long lines down the middle, I will stagger my setback as well as my depth so subtle turns will not tangle these lines. One to two ounces of weight 4 feet ahead of your lure will usually get you down to 25 to 35 feet, a very good all-around depth for kokanee.

The thermocline, that layer of water where the temperature changes significantly, is the right zone when fishing all salmon. Good electronics will help you locate that zone quickly. That layer attracts aquatic insects, which attract bait fish etc. The fish will feed up into that zone, so keeping your baits just below that layer means that is what they will see first. Placing the bait above or right in the middle of the thermocline means it gets lost in all the other activity.

Kokanee are first and foremost plankton eaters, which means they are attracted to movement. Attractors such as small dodgers, flashers and lake “trolls” are an important element. I like to use the smallest I can get away with; I want minimum gear on my line to maximize the fight of the fish. As for colors, I find red, orange and copper work very well all around, but some days, bright sun dictates brighter lures such as chartreuse, bright greens and silver/blue. Follow these tried-and-true guidelines and go enjoy some of the best kokanee fishing of the year.

Snappy Sport Senter put on a great Perch Festival on Lake Mary Ronan last Saturday and 21 boats turned out. Each boat was allowed up to three anglers and each boat was allowed to weigh up to 15 of their best yellow perch. Top honors went to Bret and Patty and Joe with 7.91 pounds AND the big fish of the day. Almost every angler in the top five is also an ice angler who regularly competes in our Perch Assault ice-fishing series. And speaking of ice fishing, it is just around the corner! I’ll see you on the water.

Howe runs Howes Fishing/A Able Charters. Contact him at www.howesfishing.com or 257-5214 or by emailing Mike@aablefishing.com.

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