Understanding the type of fish you are fishing for is very important. You need to know how, where, when and what makes them tick. When you understand what makes them tick you will be able to locate and catch them anytime of the year.
Kokanee are plankton eaters by nature and you will need to find and understand their food source to truly learn how to catch large quantities of this species. Kokanee usually school in fairly large groups for the better part of the year and that is what you need to target. They strike out of anger due to their aggressive nature.
The fish finder is probably your single greatest asset. Make sure you don’t skimp on your fish finder due to the fact that it is all you have between you and your potential catch. I have found in my experience that Lowrance makes a fantastic unit that will show everything that you need to be successful. Learn to use your unit and it will become your best friend. One common misconception is the fish I.D. mode that shows the little fish symbols. It is not effective due to the fact that it shows everything as fish, your downriggers will show as fish as well as your lines and anything that might give off water or air bubbles.
The downriggers that you will use are extremely important due to the controlled depths that you will need to hold when you are targeting kokanee, especially in the summer months. A Scotty Electric Downrigger is an investment worth making. It makes your life much easier when targeting large numbers of fish. The ability to get up and down with ease leaves you with the ability to fight the fish while the downrigger does the rest. There are many methods that can be used in the technique of stacking; from using a stacker clip to a dive planer you can accomplish running multiple lines on one downrigger.
Lead Core Line:
Many people have found this to be an effective way to target fish in a fairly controlled way. It is done by using a colored line system that has been weighted with a ‘lead core’ filling in such weights as 5, 7, and 9 feet a color. The average length per color is about 24 feet. As you let out the different colors you count by knowing what color you are on and then figuring the depth. There are two draw backs that I have come across when using lead core line. The first being you have to let out an incredible amount of line while fishing deep the result being you have to reel all of that line back onto your spool. The second draw back is if you want to fish deeper then 50 feet you will find it difficult to penetrate the water column as the lead core will start to bow.
Rod & Reels:
I am a big believer in ultra lite gear when targeting the kokes. The thing one must understand is that Kokanee have incredibly soft mouths and that is a problem if you are not equipped with the right things to use for them. I use 7’6″ ultra lite 4 – 10 lb Ninja Kokanee Jared Johnson Signature Rod made by Velocity Fishing International. The reel of choice by most Kokanee fisherman is a level wind high ball bearing reel such as the Recon or Black OPS reels made by Velocity Fishing International. Either of these reels are equipped with a great drag systems and clickers, that gives you much better control and a smoother fight on those healthy kokes.
One thing that is important is always scent your lures not only to get rid of your scent but to also give the fish a scent trail. Kokanee by nature are attracted to many of the same scents that other salmon are such as Herring and Squid as well as Crawdad and Anchovy on occasion. The scents I have found that are most productive at Flaming Gorge, Utah are Pro-Cures Super Gels. I especially like my SockeyeSlayer UV Super Gel that I created and designed which is manufactured by PorCure. I also think that Kokanee Special Super Gel, Herring and Corn Super Gels are incredible. Berkeley Gulp Maggots in white are a must in all applications of kokanee fishing.
Speed & Depth:
This is a very critical part of fishing due to the fact that if your speed is not right your lures might not be working at their optimum performance. Kokanee tend to like the lures a little faster then slower. The ideal trolling speed is 1.4 – 1.8 mph which I have found to work on every presentation with very high success. As far as depth goes you have to follow the thermo cline which is where all the oxygen is and the preferred area that the fish like to be in. If you have a problem locating the themo cline adjust the sensitivity of your fish finder up to 90% – 100% and you will see two sets of “static”, one on the surface and another somewhere in the water column, that will be your thermo cline.
Early in the season such as late March and early April the fish will be in the shallower waters where the food and warmer waters are. As the year moves on the fish continue to move to deeper water and by late June and early July you will most likely be targeting fish in the 55 – 65 foot depth and even deeper if the weather stays unusually hot. Kokanee like to feed high in the mornings so it is not uncommon that you might catch them from the surface down to 10 -15 feet the first couple of hours of daylight.
Landing a Kokanee:
The tactics for catching a kokanee are very different from other fish, people lose a lot of fish because they are trying to horse them in and as I stated earlier kokanee have very soft mouths and they will throw the hook so fast if you are not careful. Before you start fishing set your reel drag on the lighter side so that the fish can take some line as he runs and jumps because if the drag is too tight you will lose a lot of fish. You also need to stay tight on them don’t give them a lot of excess line, if you do they always seem to find a way to come up missing. Let the downriggers set the hook and if you stay tight on the fish with a smooth drag you won’t have any problems.
Flaming Gorge Fishing Tips:
All anglers have different opinions on what the hot baits are but the best of the best for Flaming Gorge are the following Rocky Mountain Tackle’s Signature Dodgers. The Hyper Plaid, Bahama Mamma, UV Pink Hyper & Crush Glow are some of our most popluar colors. All of our UV Signature Dodgers have been proven producers in front of our UV Signature Squids. Flaming Gorge is known as a spoon lake and with that being said the Viper Serpent Spoon series were created with Flaming Gorge in mind. Hot colors Mai-Tai, Caribbean Sunset, Bahama Mamma and any of the Tiger spoons will provide you with non stop action. Other notable spoons the Tasmanian Devil line as well as Vance’s Tackle Sockeye Slayer Spoon and George’s Magic Ospery.
The most under rated flutter bait would have to be the apex, look for it in the new UV colors. Look for Kokanee lures to be bright in color and or glow for the most optimum results. One of the most under-rated kokanee baits on the market is the squid or hoochie. The success of this bait performs best when the leader is tied within a foot of the dodger so that it gets a good swimming action. Hot colors are the UV Pink Haze, UV Cotton Candy, & the UV Orange Haze Signature Squids and you can’t go wrong with the Double Glow Pink or Rainbow Signature Squids. Late season, when fishing deeper than 45 feet your go to squid should be our UV Pearlescent & team it with our 5.5″ Bahama Mamma for INCREDIBLE Results! A sleeper would have to be Radical Glow’s 1.5″ RGT Set-Ups in Pink/Green, and Pink/Pink behind our Signature Dodger.
Flaming Gorge Lake Hot Spots:
The Wyoming side of the lake has always held the larger fish so look for the most fishing pressure to be in the Anvil Draw, Marsh Creek and Big Bend Buckboard areas. Late in the season you will find that the Holmes Crossing Squaw Hollow cliffs area is full of action and worth the trip. Other note worthy areas are Hideout on the Utah side of the lake with Red Canyon and Jarvis also holding some nice fish. Pipeline and the Wyoming side of the lake is another favorite early season spot for many of the Gorges regular fisherman. Look for the group of boats and you won’t go wrong, I have found that the hottest spots last year (2009) being that it was a up and down year we found that we had to travel more to find quality fish. The most consistent areas were Buckboard Bay, Brinagers Ranch and the Boulevard just south of the Pipeline all held consistent kokanee. Another notable areas Anvil Draw, Upper Marsh Creek and Breeze Hill also had there share of fish.
Strawberry Fishing Tips:
Strawberry is a water all its own, with a few similariteis to other waters I have fished. To start with you need to ease your speed back a little when fishing this lake, and optimum speed at 1.3 – 1.5 mph. The window of “fishing oppurtinunity” is small due to its high elevation so the kokanne fishing is only going to be good from June 15th through August 15th.
The best producers on Strawberry have been our Hyper Plaid Signature Dodger with either UV Pink Haze or Double Glow Pink Squid. You should also have UV Chart Haze & UV Green Haze squids in your tackle box. Spinners also work well but make sure they are bright in color and are tipped with either a meal worm or a Berkeley Gulp Maggot. (Tip the Squids as Well) Fish the open bay areas of the lake and concetrate your depths between 25 – 40 feet. My best depth year after year is 34 feet with it producing the highest amount of kokanee strikes.
My two favorite areas to fish are:
- 1. The open bay out in front of Strawberry Bay Marina. (Form a triangle) Line up from the Marina to Haws Point then point your boat toward the Ladders about a third of the way into the chanel and then turn back to the marina and complete the triangle!
- 2. Soldier Creek side between the mouth of the narrows and the dam. You will find consistent fishing running 22 – 35 feet with bright pink squids and spinners being best.