Once you are confident you are correctly targeting fish either on the surface or at depth, then it’s time to decide what to throw at them.
Kokanee fishing can be one of the most action-packed trips when it comes to “salmon” fishing, even if they are a little on the smaller side.
Kokanee fishing can be a mind game. At my local lakes there seems to be a divide between those that get it and those that don’t and not much in between. Sitting at the docks talking with the anglers usually yields two results, limits or dang close, or just a handful to nothing at all. What creates this huge gap in success? Is it lure size, speed, presentation, location or depth? Well, it’s actually all of them.
The learning curve is steep. Things click and the fish start flowing to the boat and it seems you can do no wrong. Or, you follow a boat that seems to be calling all the fish in the lake to their gear, and it seems as if you might as well as brought popcorn just to watch the show. Why are they doing so much better? How come it seems they are getting 10 to 1 on bites. You’re using the hottest new lure and color, what gives? You have one thing wrong, and it’s changing your catch rate from hero to zero.
Now I understand that catching and killing kokanee isn’t everything to every angler on a day out on the lake. But everyone has been there when they have a special guest with them, a buddy or grand kid, and they want success. After all, kokanee fishing can be one of the most action-packed trips when it comes to “salmon” fishing, even if they are a little on the smaller side.
Hopefully I’ve already established that if you’re looking to have a good catch rate when the conditions allow, you need to have all your ducks in a row. But what does a kokanee angler prioritize in front of another when it comes to variables? I have an order that I developed when it comes to chasing kokanee and generally if I figure out the first three the rest never get changed as they are not needed. Kokanee anglers get lost in the weeds on variables that I don’t believe matter near as much as others. And while sometimes they have success changing the smaller variables, they unknowingly were adjusting one of the “big three” and that’s where the difference was made.
Starting with targeting, understanding where your active fish are in the lake and water column is the obvious first no-brainer.
What I consider the “big three” when fishing dodgers are: Targeting, presentation size, and speed. The rest? Lure color, scent, lure choice, dodger color, and color of corn.
Starting with targeting, understanding where your active fish are in the lake and water column is the obvious first no-brainer. It doesn’t matter how cool and new the kokanee lure is, what color it is, what it smells like, and how fast it’s going if it never gets in front of one to get seen. This seems like an obvious statement but there are a lot of factors that throw people off. Electronics can be one of them as chasing marks that aren’t kokanee can waste an angler’s time as they’re target-ing fish that’s aren’t interested in their gear or are dormant. Surface fish that are invisible to standard electronics may make the angler think they aren’t around the fish, but the boat could be flaring school after school with the anglers not knowing. Have a good under-standing of what your electronics show and what they are capable of. If fish are not visible with traditional sonar, utilize a side scan feature for a while and see if they are just too shallow to be under the boat.
Once you are confident you are correctly targeting fish either on the surface or at depth, then it’s time to decide what to throw at them. These days I almost always start with a variation of a Brad’s Kokanee Dodger and a smallish lure. Spin-N-Glo, hootchie, hootchie spinner, at this point it really doesn’t matter. Make sure the dodger is imparting action on the offering with a short leader 8-11 inches long and you’re not weighing the hooks down with more than one piece of corn. Next get it in front of them.
Being proficient at fishing usually comes from making the right decisions at the right time. Judging how long to run an offering before changing is only a call a person can make at that exact moment. Are there other boats around catching? Is the weather allowing me to troll effectively? Am I keeping my offering in front of fish? If you are feeling like you are checking all those boxes then switching every ten minutes or so might make sense. If the fish are scattered, the wind is only allowing you to troll a little bit before you’re going too fast or too slow, or debris is effecting how long you can actually fish unimpeded—you might want to soak those offerings a little longer.
There are some great scents out there, but once again, it’s not going to be the magic bullet if you’re not in front of them.
So let’s say you’ve started with your initial setup and feel confident you have presented it correctly in front of fish, now what? Over years of experience this next decision has led to more fish being caught than anything else when I can’t buy a bite. It’s not the color or the scent of the presentation, it’s the size. At this point I have something that is shying the fish away or not getting enough attention from the fish. I like to move the size up and down before anything else. Moving up to a Brad’s Kokanee Cut-Plug can put a LOT of action on your corn in a hurry, or moving down to the tiniest of Spin-N-Glos can entice a bite from wary fish. Either way, I’ve seen that change have a dramatic effect on my bites more than anything else.
Another huge piece to the puzzle is speed. We’ve all seen it before, an outside rod on a turn getting nailed, a gust of wind triggering a bite—speed can be super critical. What I find is that kokanee can be super sensitive to the speed to where the difference of .2 to .3 mph can change everything. Once you’ve started getting some grabs due to targeting and presentation size, you may need to adjust your speed to fine tune it even more. Pay attention to which rods are getting bites when you make a turn, as in if the outside or inside rods are the ones being bit and either speed up or slow down respectively.
With the “big three” I try to avoid situations where an angler thinks color had everything to do with their success and not any of the variables listed. A few days ago I met an angler that caught a few fish that day on a pink hootchie. It was the only thing he got bites on. He switched everything to the pink hootchies but never got the results that he had on the one rod vs. the others. I asked him what else he was running and he stated he had orange on the other rods. Then I asked him where he was fishing in the water column and found out the pink one was on the surface and everything else was down at least 30 feet. Due to the time of year and conditions, no matter what he ran at 30 feet it wasn’t going to get touched even though he switched out those rods to the hot color. His surface rod with the pink hootchie kept catching a few but his other rods didn’t have a prayer.
For the most part they’re curious biters and anything that you are throwing at them doesn’t replicate anything that they have either fed on or smelled. There’s no corn hatch on our lakes. Every now and then when you have the gear in front of them, you narrowed down what size presentation they prefer and you have a good speed, scent can spur some additional bites. There are some great scents out there, but once again, it’s not going to be the magic bullet if you’re not in front of them.
Moving up to a Brad’s Kokanee Cut-Plug can put a LOT of action on your corn in a hurry, or moving down to the tiniest of Spin-N-Glos can entice a bite from wary fish.
It does seem like anglers either get it or don’t when it comes to kokanee catching. Good limits or scratching a few. Now I’ll be the first to admit there are days where even the best targeting and presentations can’t will a bite out of fish, or at least the amount that I want, but for the most part if I’m going to turn on a slow bite, I’ll make an adjustment in the “big three” categories first.
Cameron Black - Gone Catchin’ Guide Service www.gonecatchin.net
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