COLUMN: Best time of year at hand for kokanee

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In his excellent book, “Kokanee — A Complete Fishing Guide,” author Dave Biser recalls his first experience with catching a kokanee.

Like many of us, his first exposure to the “silver bullets” ended with a lost fish, and there were several more hook-ups before he succeeded in landing one. But once he did, it wasn’t just the fish that got “hooked.” As he recounts his journey from that first fish forward, I see so many similarities to my own education as a kokanee angler that each time I look through the book, it is like a walk through time. And I learn and relearn many lessons.

As we approach one of the best times of the year for kokanee anglers, I recently did just that to share some of that knowledge with you.

Kokanee around the Northwest typically begin their pre-spawn activity in mid- to late August. From a simple observation of the physical condition they are in, the fattest and sassiest they have been all year, to location, feeding and behavioral changes, there are changes afoot, or perhaps “afin.”

The early warming of many area lakes this year, along with extremely high surface temps, may have some lasting effect on these fish that remains to be seen, but these fish have to spawn, so I am counting on their natural instincts to kick in no matter what the conditions.

Early morning and late evening are typically active times for these fish to feed since their forage is primarily plankton-based or at least plankton-motivated. Look for kokanee to begin to move into or at least stage nearby mouths of bays and entrances to spawning streams, especially gravel bars and shoals. If the streams don’t have enough water, those bars, shoals and humps will be where they stay until they do.

Trolling around these areas is what I like to do, using electronics to locate the schools and downriggers to reach them. Jigging can be a very effective technique as well, but I find I catch my bigger fish by trolling around the edges and can very often separate these fish out on my sonar.

This also helps me ensure that I can get these fish at least hooked for a client that may not have the skill sets required to effectively jig these fish. As Biser accounts in his book, tackle and gear have evolved significantly in the last 20 years or so for these light-biting, hard-fighting fish. The gear I use these days is lighter and smaller and does not inhibit the fight of these fish in the least. In fact, in some cases it may enhance it.

Fundamentals are very important when fishing for kokanee and can often make or break a day on the water.

I always use a baited hook, making sure I have a piece of corn, maggot, or bit of worm on at least one hook, and I replace it after every bite, catch or every 15 minutes. Scent is another factor — these are salmon have incredible noses. Scent from the chosen bait is one thing, but a commercial shrimp scent is a necessity in my book.

Coat your swivels, blades, beads etc. with this and rub a little on your fingers before handling baits and lures. Trust me, your catch rate will reward the effort. Speed is the last fundamental, a trolling speed of .8 mph to 1.4 mph will put you in the zone and experiment from there. More in my next column, I’ll see you on the water!

Howe runs Howes Fishing/A Able Charters. Contact him at or 257-5214 or by emailing

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