Kokanee Tackle Tips
One of the most important elements of the whole approach to kokanee fishing is the rod. Kokanee have extremely “soft” mouths. They can tear a hook out much easier than other fish and you have to have this in mind when you select a rod. Pick one with a very soft or “slow” action. The rod has to be very limber and at the same time have enough backbone to hold up under the stress of being used with downriggers. Some anglers prefer very long, flexible rods to use as shock absorbers, while others opt for the newer, short versions made specifically for kokanee fishing. When you have the right rod and play your fish with an even and steady retrieve you will not lose as many fish, even without a snubber.
When selecting a reel keep in mind that it must have good smooth drag. I have always used bait casting style reels that enough line capacity with 10-pound test line to fish as deep as 100 feet. A smooth drag and flexible rod will help put more fish in the cooler. I have seen some anglers using spinning rods and reels, so it can be done, but I prefer bait casters.
On the main line there are some options to consider before you add your lure. In the old days I used to use the “Jack O Diamonds” gang trolls. These were very effective, but are very heavy and create a lot of drag in the water. Mack’s Lure came out with their Flash Lite trolls and this solved the weight problem. These trolls have Mylar blades that have very little drag, but still produce a bright flash in the water to attract fish. They work great.
I also like to use small trout dodgers. I like the very small ones as they cause very little drag and don’t tear out as many hooks as larger models. Of course these come in a gazzilion colors, and I have a bunch of different ones in my box. I have bright silver and bright silver with the crystal inlay. I have silver and bronze with dimples and without. My favorite is the chartreuse and white. I guess it’s the contrasting color that makes them work so well. I catch fish on the others, too, but this is the one I personally prefer.
Now then, we’re down to what to put on the end of your line. This is the fun part. I began kokanee fishing with a simple, single hook Mack’s Lure Wedding Ring spinner and caught a bunch of fish on them. They still work, too, but of course we all have to try new things. Mack’s Lure also makes a Double Whammy and a Kokanee Pro that I like primarily because they are tied with two hooks. Having a double hook rig can really help get more fish in the boat. Then they came out with the Cha Cha Squidder, which has very small hoochies and double hooks. This one works, too. There are a lot of squidder rigs out there and I have found them to be very effective. I have had very good luck with the R&K Spinners version. I like either a bright pink or orange with the squidders, and have found purple to be an excellent color as well. Some of these squidders have either the smile blade or a metal spinner and both work most of the time. The R&K has no blade at all and they are working great. You can also buy the components and tie up your own versions of squidders and have lots of color options.
Most of these lures come with a long length of leader in the pack. The R&Ks come with just 12 inches of leader and I tie them on right out of the pack. Even the very small trout dodgers will give these lures a good “kick” when trolled. The other day we compared leaders that we were using and they ranged from 12 to 24 inches. I wouldn’t go any longer than that and not any shorter either. Most of these come with stout leader material, which adds to the action of the lure. I used to use 6-pound test on Lake Chelan and lost a lot of gear when a mackinaw or Chinook hit, as they will here. I now don’t go below 10-pound. I recently was broken off on Lake Chelan, and my leader package said it was tied with 13.9-pound test. Never saw the fish. I am a big fan of fluorocarbon leaders for all of my fishing, and in shallow water this material could be effective when fishing for kokanee.
Also, before I put my lures into the water I always add a kernel or two of white shoe peg corn to each hook. Don’t overload the hooks with bait to the point that it spoils the action of the lure. Some times I stain the corn a purple or pink color, but just plain white seems to work fine. I also add scent to the container, rather than splash it on.
When I reach the fishing grounds I am glued to the depth sounder to find where the fish are holding. That will determine how deep I run the riggers. I put out from 25 to 50 feet of line behind the clip, depending on how shallow I am running. I can run short when the fish are deep, but sometimes further back if the fish are finicky. I usually troll at about 1 mph on my GPS, but have fished as fast as 1.7 mph.
A couple of other things I have along when kokanee fishing. I have a net with a six-foot handle, and I often wish it was longer. Kokanee will go nuts right when you get them up to the boat. Having a long handled net has helped me get more of them in the cooler. I also have plenty of ice along. These fish can get soft quickly and bleeding them and getting them on ice and keeping them cold will really help keep their table quality at a premium. It would be a shame to have these tasty fish spoil in the boat or the trip home.
This should give you some help when trying to decide what kind of gear to get when you plan on taking on kokanee in our region’s lakes. These fish are well worth the effort. Even the smaller ones found in many of our lakes are fun to catch and they are undeniably the best eaters we can catch. So, gear up and get after ‘em!