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There's no better time to catch kokanee

8/18/2005

A few years ago, many anglers believed that kokanee could only be caught during the summer months. Today, on the other hand, anglers fish for kokanee for more than half the year.

That being said, August is still the best time to catch kokanee, because most fish begin to school up and become much easier to locate.

Rather than having to comb the lake looking for congregations of fish in a certain depth range, anglers are awarded the opportunity to target kokanee when they're stacked up.

But is it easier to catch these huddled fish?

"They're easier to catch in a sense that you can find larger populations of them, but they aren't feeding as much at that time," said Gary Mirales, owner of Shasta Tackle Company and inventor of the Cripplure and Sling Blade.

"August is a great time to fish for kokanee, but you have to get them to bite."

Getting them to bite may take work at times, but kokanee are at their largest proportions in August and September and can be very territorial.

"They tend to be more reactive to baits out of aggression this time of year. They do get a little more aggressive," said Mirales.

Nonetheless, because they're schooled up and you can see thousands of them on your fishfinder, that still doesn't mean that they're going to be biting.

When they're schooled up you can find them more easily, but getting them to bite isn't always in the cards. With a decent depthfinder, locating massive blobs of kokanee won't be a problem.

On the other hand, many anglers find these schools and leave them if they aren't getting action. There's a golden rule in fishing that many kokanee guides follow: Don't leave fish to find fish.

It's more productive to work these fish thoroughly and find a way to get them to bite, rather than leaving them.

"It can vary. The school of kokanee can be 50 feet tall and not really wide or they could be a big ball and holding at 20 feet," Mirales said.

"Generally, when you see a school of kokanee it's usually like a round ball."

Find the school

Finding that school is vital to your success. According to Mirales, kokanee prefer water in the 50 to 55-degree range.

If you can stay within the 50s you'll find schools of kokanee. Keep in mind, in August kokanee begin to mature into the final phase of their lifespan.

When they begin to school up you have a clear indicator that they're preparing to head upstream to spawn.

In some waters they can't reproduce because there is no inlet stream to swim up. In this case they aren't often unsuccessful. Fortunately though, stocking will replenish the fishery.

Think of this time as a prespawn, just like bass, panfish and catfish partake in. On the other hand, during the prespawn mode, kokanee aren't as apt to bite.

Convincing them to grab a bait can be challenging, but persistent anglers are quick to find success.

"They aren't hungry. It's like a salmon. Once they enter the river, they aren't eating much, but they'll hit things out of anger and aggression," said Mirales.

"When they're schooled up they'll still bite. They're really tough to catch once they turn and start to transform and get a hookjaw though, but I've still caught them. You've really got to upset them."

Knowing how to upset them is the key. Many anglers turn to bright colors.

Utilizing bright red and pinks and something that moves around a lot to push water and create sound and vibration is a sure way to pull a limit of fish.

"You use lures that rattle, colors that are bright and that make sound," Mirales said.

"I use a lure that rolls and rattles and makes more vibrations. They're just attacking out of reflex."

Troll or jig

Anglers can troll or jig this time of year. While many will disagree, Mirales believes that jigging is more of a spring technique.

"Jigging isn't as popular in the fall as it is in the spring," he said.

"It's almost always a spring and early summer program. After you get beyond that jigging isn't as successful. In lakes that are overpopulated you can jig in the spring because there are just so many fish, but it could be different in different areas."

Oddly enough, though, many anglers only jig during late summer and early fall. Jigging makes sense this time of year. Anglers can find success in jigging because the schools are so tight that jigs are highly effective.

On the other hand, you'll snag a lot of kokanee this time of year with a jig because the schools are so tight that hooking into the side of a fish is very common.

Keep in mind that snagging a kokanee is illegal, except in a few specific waters in some states during the spawning run.

Trolling tends to be productive. Many anglers troll through the schools of kokanee in attempt to find biters.

"The guys have different ways of fishing them, but generally I like to troll through the middle of them. When I find a school of kokanee I'll just keep going through them to try to anger them. The more you go through them, the more you anger them," said Mirales.

"The two things that I like to do is I want to create a lot of action or vibration. I double up on Sling Blades (dodgers) to get more action out of them."

Dozens of lures are effective.

The most popular lures to troll are Apex, Needlefish, Kok-A-Nuts, Wedding Rings and Cripplures. Most are used in conjunction with a Sep's Pro Dodger, Sling Blade or Jensen Dodger.

"You also want to get a lure that will roll a lot and vibrate. I like a lure like an Apex because it has a lot of vibration and it will work well. You can pick your speed up and get it to move better," Mirales said.

"The more motion and action you have, the better you're going to do, and again ,you want to go to the bright colors."

Question

How do you know whether or not the kokanee has turned?

"You really don't until you start picking up some fish, and then at that time you can tell. You have to be guessing pretty much because of the time of year," Mirales said.

Fortunately, this usually happens in late September, which means we have plenty of time to tap into kokanee action.

By October though, these fish will likely have turned and it will be time to move on to another species. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.


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