When it’s time to spawn, Salmon make the trek back to the river that they were born in. With the changes made to retain water by building dams, the salmon are not able to make it up the river system to where they need to spawn. California Department of Fish and Wildlife create ladder systems in the rivers, just below a dam, so the salmon can swim up into the fish hatchery for egg and sperm collection, so they can fertilize the eggs, and raise the salmon so that they can be planted back into the river system so they can swim back to the ocean and grow to maturity and repeat the cycle. A portion of the little salmon are planted into lakes throughout California. There are three main types of these landlocked Salmon that are targeted for this unique fishery. Kokanee Salmon, King Salmon, and Coho Salmon.
Kokanee Salmon Fishing Guides
There are many different fishing guides that offer guided fishing trips for kokanee salmon, and pretty much any other fish that you may want to target. FishingBooker is a service of local guides that you can choose from and schedule your next guided fishing trip. Book A Kokanee Fishing Guide Today!
Trophy Kokanee Fishing Lures
Rocky Mountain Tackle Signature Kokanee Lures are some of the top trophy kokanee fishing lures on the market.
How to Catch Kokanee - Trolling Basics Video
About Kokanee Salmon
The common name for a land locked Sockeye Salmon is Kokanee (pronounced coke-a-nee). Kokanee spend their entire life in freshwater, and they do not migrate to the ocean. Kokanee typically inhabit large lakes, and will return to the streams they were born in, or along the shoreline with gravel bottoms in order to spawn. The Kokanee die after spawning, and the cycle of life continues with their offspring, which will complete the same cycle. The cycle typically takes three to seven years to complete. Although Kokanee are much smaller than most other salmon breeds, they are ferocious fighters. They are known to be very active when they get hooked. They typically jump and launch themselves into the air once they feel the hook, spinning, and jumping trying to spit the hook. They have very soft mouths, so you don’t want to set the hook, you just want to real straight in, keeping the line tight with no slack.If you find yourself having a lot of LDR’s (long distance release’s) or losing the fish before you can land them, while trolling for Kokanee, you may want to add a rubber snubber to your line. This will take some of the impact of the combination of the line moving through the water and the Kokanee biting the line, to lessen the odds of losing the fish. Kokanee are mostly silver with a dark blue or silver back. They have small spots along the back and the tail. When they spawn, their body turns bright read and their head turns a dark green. Male Kokanee develop a pronounced hump on the back and a fierce-looking hooked jaw. Kokanee occur naturally in the wild where sockeye populations were cut off from the sea by dams or other geographical events. They share the same range as the sockeye salmon. Kokanee are found in many areas, from California up to Alaska, as well as inland Idaho, and as far as Japan, Korea, and Russia. There are naturally occurring populations, as well as being stocked by fish and game management agencies in large cold water lakes throughout California and the mountain West, as well as far east to Maine, and south to North Carolina. Kokanee can vary widely in size, depending on how plentiful the food is, and how large the population of Kokanee is. Most are in the 8 to 12 inch range, but can grow into the mid 20 inch range under the best conditions. A two pounder would be a decent catch, with a five pounder to be thought of as a trophy size.
Largest Kokanee Ever Caught
The largest Kokanee ever caught was a world record set by a fish caught at Wallowa Lake in Oregon. This Lunker was 27 inches long, and it weighted 9.67 pounds.
Kokanee Fishing Techniques
Kokanee feed mostly on plankton, so they typically hang out in open water near the lake surface when the water is cool, and in deep water during the summer time. The best way to catch Kokanee is trolling small shrimp and octopus type fly, in pink, red, blue, or white. Small Kokanee sized spoons with a corn tipped hook (powerbait makes a great corn kernel to use for this purpose). I typically like to use a special Kokanee scent with pink coloring to soak the corn in, which tends to attract them more.
Lake Landlocked Kokanee Salmon
Lifecycle of a Kokanee
Kokanee are landlocked sockeye salmon. Kokanee mature between three to five years to their full size, and then they die once they spawn. Their diet consists of mainly zooplankton that they extract from the water by means of their gill rakers. They will also eat tiny bugs and insects, tiny plants, and even freshwater shrimp if it is available in the water they are in. Kokanee will spend most of their lives suspended mid depth in the lake. Their main food source, zooplankton, is light sensitive. This means that on brighter days the Kokanee’s food source will be deeper in the water and the kokanee will follow. A Landlocked Kokanee Salmon’s size depends on their genetics as well as the density of the kokanee population in the lake that they have to compete with for their food. If a lake has less kokanee, the kokanee will tend to be larger in size. Kokanee are also prey for other predatory fish such as trout and Char. On average a mature Trout will eat 2 adult Kokanee per day.
Kokanee Fish Habits
Kokanee prefer water temperature that ranges from 45F to 54F, with 53F being their optimum water temperature. If they are exposed to water temperatures above 60F for prolonged periods of time it would be fatal to Kokanee. This is one of the many reasons that they typically will not survive catch and release.
Locating Kokanee For Fishing
You can usually find Kokanee scattered throughout the lake, so they are not easy to find from day to day as they may not be in the same spot from day to day. A good fish finder sonar is a must when Kokanee as you have to find the fish and where they are schooling in order to be successful at catching them. Kokanee do swim in schools, which does make them easier to locate when you cross over the top of a school of Kokanee. The best places to find Kokanee in the lake are areas with currents, wind blown points, large points that come out into the main lake, and tight narrow contour lines. You will find Kokanee in these areas because their food source is pushed into these areas and the Kokanee will follow the food source. Because Kokanee will school in all depths of the water column, it is best to use a downrigger to get your lures and bait directly in their zone to increase your chances at success. If you don’t have downriggers, you can use divers on your line to get you to the right depths, or you can add a variety of inline weights that will aid in getting your gear down deep to where the Kokanee are hiding. It’s always important to take note of exactly what you did to get your lure or bait down to the Kokanee so that you can get your line back out and down to the zone where you got bit or caught the fish. You can do this by counting as you let your line out, using a line counter, reading the depth display on the downrigger, or using colored lines to count the colors as you let your line out.
Kokanee Fishing Tackle
There have been a lot of good changes and advancements in Kokanee tackle of the last fifteen years. The old school large blade and ford fenders, which were once the trolling gear of choice for most fishermen, have become a thing of the past. Fishermen now target Kokanee with smaller and lighter tackle, which allows them to feel the fish more, and sense the strike better. They have also switched from heavy bulky rods to lighter medium action rods for better sensitivity. Using ultra light tackle allows you to play the fish and enjoy the Kokanee’s aggressive fight with higher chances of being able to land the fish instead of it getting off. It’s important to have a fluorocarbon leader to make your line to your lure invisible to Kokanee as well. Some fishermen like to use a rubber snubber due to the soft mouth of a Kokanee can cause the hook to tear through and pop out, but with the lighter action rods and stretching monofilament fishing line, with the low trolling speeds, many are no longer using the rubber snubber. If you end up not catching a lot of your fish, you should try to add a rubber snubber to see if this helps.
Best Kokanee Fishing Tackle and Gear
6 to 8 Pound Good Quality Fishing Line Fluorocarbon Leader Medium Action Rod and Reel 4 to 6 Inch Dodgers Ultra Light Trolling Blades Kokanee Lures Lure Hook Tipping Baits and Attractants Long Pole Fish Net You can find all of this and more in our Fishing Gear and Tackle Store!
Kokanee Fishing Lures
There are a lot of different types of Kokanee lures on the market today and the majority of the tackle that we use today are not meant to imitate something natural that they will eat. Many of the most productive lures on the market today for Kokanee are meant to tick them off and get them irritated in order to entice them into biting your lure. Kokanee are highly aggressive and they will attack anything that is unnatural that comes into their space, as long as the lure is not too big, so they don’t feel threatened by it. There are two main types of Kokanee lures on the market today. There is the type that have their own side to side action and the type that runs straight through the water. The most important aspect to setting up your rig is to take note about what length you run your leader behind your dodger, as it does differ between the lure types on what length you should go with for the best chances at getting bit. For a lure that has its own action, you’ll want to run a leader to your lure that is three to four times the length of the dodger so the lures action isn’t interrupted by the action of the dodger. With a lure with no side-to-side action, you’ll want to run the leader at two to two and a half times the length of the dodger to transfer action from the dodger to the lure. Kokanee are attracted to a variety of colors ranging from hot pinks, fluorescent reds, purple, blue, bright orange and chartreuse. Using UV and Glow colors are excellent during low light conditions and when fishing in deeper water.
Recommended Kokanee Fishing Lures
•Action Lures: Hoochies, Hum Dingers, Small Spoons, & Cripplures •Non Action Lures: Smile Blade Kokanee Hoochies, Wedding Rings & Hoochies •Lure Colors: Hot Pink, Red, Purple, Blue, Orange, and Chartreuse•Kokanee Fishing Dodger and Lures•Luhr Jense 4/0 Dodger, Wedding Rings, and Apex
Kokanee Fishing Dodgers & Flashers
Most Kokanee fishermen prefer to add a dodger or a flasher to their line. When a dodger travels through the water it moves side-to-side creating flash and water displacement, which creates sound to the Kokanee that is like ringing the dinner bell. This will bring Kokanee in from a distance to find your lure. Once the Kokanee comes in to investigate the sound from the Dodger, it’s the job of your lure to encourage the strike. Using larger dodgers can repel Kokanee because it can mimic a predator fish. You should have a selection of 4 to 6 inch dodgers in your tackle box to provide you with different options. If the water is cloudy you may have better luck using a larger dodger to help the fish find your lure, but in clear water conditions it is best to go with a small 4 inch dodger to get getter results. Using an inline flasher can be good for when you are long lining without downriggers or when the fish are scattered and not as tightly schooled. Flashers have rotating blades and run straight through the water so they will not add any additional action to your lure. When using flashers it’s a good idea to select a lure with it’s own action or with a spinner to add the additional attraction of the fish to your lure. Your leader lengths should be set at between 15 to 30 inches depending on how clear the water is. When there is less water clarity you will need to use a shorter leader. Best Kokanee Dodger and Flasher: 4 inch Dodger, Ultralight Flashers
Kokanee Fishing Lures and Dodgers
Kokanee Fishing Scent & Bait
Adding bait to your lure will help seal the deal once the Kokanee finds your lure.
Kokanee Fishing Bait Fish
Bait Fish - One option for baiting your lure is to use a salted sliver of bait fish, like anchovies. Mixing your bait fish in salt the night before your fishing trip will increase the firmness of the meat so that it will stay on your hook longer. Anchovies are rich with fish attracting oils and leave an awesome scent trail in the water when trolled. Check out our Brined and Salted Bait Fish Fillet recipe.
Kokanee Fishing With Corn Tipped Lure
Shoepeg Corn - Tipping your lure with a kernel of dyed and cured White Shoepeg Corn is another way to attract Kokanee to your lure. I like to add a hot pink dye to my corn, as well as good proven Kokanee attractant scent. Some people like to mix their corn with some garlic powder or garlic salt, and juice from a can of tuna to add to the mix as well. After you mix the corn and the ingredients that you prefer, be sure to refrigerate the corn or it will go bad. I like to mix up a few small batches with a different color dye in each batch, so I have a few to choose from when out on the water. Check out our Dyed and Scented Kokanee Shoepeg Corn Recipe.
Best Bait to Tip Your Kokanee Fishing Lure
Dyed and Scented Shoepeg Corn, Salted Bait Fish Fillet, Anchovies
Kokanee Fishing Attractant Scents
Adding scent to your bait and lure will provide a scent trail that will attract the Kokanee to your lure, and it will also mask any other unwanted smells that may repel a Kokanee. Our hands get many smells on them from our day of fishing, and it can repel the Kokanee, and adding a fish attractant scent will prevent this from happening. •Best Kokanee Attracting Scents: Shrimp, Krill, Anchovy, Kokanee Scents, Bloody Tuna, Juice from Tuna Can•Best Kokanee Aggressive Irritant Scents: Garlic, Anise
Kokanee Fishing Trolling Speeds & Tactics
Monitoring your controlling speeds is critical when it comes to Kokanee fishing. Trolling speeds should be much slower when trolling for Kokanee. Unlike when fishing for Trout where the average speed is over 2 mph, speeds for Kokanee range from .8 mph to 1.8 mph.
Best Kokanee Fishing Trolling Speed
.8 mph to 1.8 mph Kokanee will follow your gear for miles around the lake until something changes and it thinks that your lure is going to get away or they get annoyed with it and then they will strike. This is why it’s important to troll in a way that it puts erratic action into what you are presenting to the Kokanee. Good trolling tactics such as making “S” Turns, stop and go, speeding up then slowing down, or even bringing your downrigger up one turn and then back down one turn will all help to entice a Kokanee to strike your lure. Never sink into the habit of just doing the same thing with any type of fishing, you have to change your tactic, change your color, change your presentation, change your speed, change your driving direction with turns, in order to get the fish interested in striking your lure.
Now It’s Time To Go Kokanee Fishing!
Fishing for Kokanee can be challenging but once you get your presentation just right to the conditions you will have a lot of fun and catching a lot of fish. When the Kokanee bite is on, it can be non-stop action and quick limits. Some days it will seem that it is much easier than others, but keep applying these tip and tricks, and keep a log of what you did that worked, and what you did that didn’t, along with some conditions information like weather, clouds, temps, as well as your depths, setbacks, leader length, lure colors, etc.. and you will perfect yourself into the ultimate Kokanee Fish Master! The most important thing is to get out on the water and give Kokanee fishing a try, experiment with all your techniques, and most of all have fun!About The Author Mike Mendenhall is the the founder of Mendenhall Outdoors. This website is an extension of the Mendenhall family’s lifestyle and passion for the great outdoors. Everything that they learn, and experience, along the way that they find may be valuable to our website visitors is on the site for you to enjoy. We highlight products and services that you might find interesting. We frequently receive free products from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we might receive a commission – at no extra cost to you, and does not impact the purchase price of any products that you may purchase. The Best Kokanee Fishing Experience Awaits!