Who does not love and appreciate a lake full of bright, hard fighting wonderfully delicious landlocked sockeye salmon? Out West we call them kokanee, or silver “trout”, by any name when May comes around it’s prime time for light tackle and kokanee trolling.
Finding kokanee in spring is far easier than in summer. Lakes are slowly warming, and kokanee in majority of lakes may be found from on the surface to approximately 30 feet. Whether you are a downrigger person or sliding lead/dropper kind of angler, this means setting your gear shallow and a bit further back away from your boat.
Speaking of gear, through all the different sizes, styles, colors, finishes and actions of kokanee terminal gear, one style setup is the meat and potatoes…a dodger, short leader and a lure that spins and/or wobbles of some sort. Every variation and combinations begins and seemingly ends with dodger/lure. Yakima Bait Co. has done some overtime with their dodgers/lures for kokanee, and that’s where we’ll begin our tour.
Start with a dodger. Look closely at it from the side. If the dodger is, say, a long teardrop shape with only one short bend in the wider end, that dodger is designed for faster trolling speeds. (Ideal trolling speed for kokanee is normally 1.1 to 1.6 mph), 1.5 to 2.3 mph. Rectangular dodgers are shorter with two bends (waves) and work at slower speeds, from 0.6 to 1.5. Both are designed to swing at a smooth tempo. The Fast Limit dodger has three waves, imparting not only a swing tempo but an occasional erratic dart. This gives your lure a very “wounded” action, and gets bit…a lot.
Optimum speeds for the Fast Limit dodger are 1.1 to 1.8, with 1.4 being the best for the regular size (3-3/4” long) and the 5” model works best at 1.5. Note that when dodgers are trolled beyond there “speed threshold” they will cease side to side action and rollover rapidly like a flasher.
My favorite dodger this season is the 5” Fast Limit. I had it already rigged on a light rod left over from sockeye season last summer (Alert: These 5” models are killer for sockeye, too…) and it out performed my rectangular dodgers so well I stuck with it. There are 10 different colors/finishes of fast Limits, these were our best producers last spring and so far this season: For the 3-3/4” dodger, Nickel (NIC); Glo & Pearl (GLO/PL); Ice Pink (IPK) and Glo & Ice Pink (GLO/IPK). For the 5” Fast Limit, Morning Glory (Nickel body w/glow, moon jelly tape) is the all star this year with plain Nickel (NIC) second. Try to use a quality ball bearing swivel on top of your dodgers to allow maximum freedom for action.
For lures, think mini squid bodies, dual #4 tandem red sharp hooks with some sort of rotating attractor above it.
Begin with the standard issue spinner blade/ squid body kokanee lure. The Tight Lines Kokanee Rig feature a 1” Colorado style blade on top of a 1-1/2”Yamashida (the best!) mini squid body. All Yakima bait kokanee squids have a glow Lil’ Corkie placed in the head of the squid for extra translucent glow under the colors, the Corkie also adds flotation which makes the squid lure travel not only side to side but slightly up and down as well. All blades are UV coated and rigs are tied (all Yakima Bait kokanee lures are tied with a lengthy section of 10# fluorocarbon leader material) with a long length of 10# fluorocarbon leader which allows you to easily tie the leader length you want. Trials have shown the best leader length for average speed trolling is 12”, measured from the bottom of the dodger to the top of the lure.
Favorite colors are: Brass (BR), brass blade/hot pink squid; Candy Wrapper (CRW), metallic pink blade, hot pink squid; Glitter Red (GRED) “Candy Corn’, orange blade/ pink, chartreuse and glow squid and Nickel (NIC), nickel blade/ hot pink squid.
Replace that blade on top of the squid with a lure that Yakima Bait (Wordens) developed for trout and kokanee trolling over 60 years ago and you have the Spin-n-Glo Kokanee Rig. Two sizes of SNG to choose, either #12 (smaller) or #10, in 10 different colors. My favorites are the #12, as they seem to have a bit more action at slower speeds, due to their smaller profile. The SNG squid rigs wobble a bit more than the bladed ones. Also try a 12” leader for these.
Favorite colors are: Double Trouble Pink Glow (DTUP-GL); Nightmare Pink (NMP-MP); Cerise Candy Wrapper (CER-MP).
Best times to be kokanee trolling? First thing in the morning is usually best, how long the bite hold up depends on the weather. If the forecast is for bright sun and zero wind, be very early. If it is cloudy and a bit breezy, the bite usually lasts longer into the morning. Kokanee have huge eyes and are light sensitive- the darker the day usually means a better biting day.
A few more tips? After the morning bite slows down, wait for the mid day/afternoon wind to chop up the water. The bite will usually pick up then. Bring your gear up five to ten feet rapidly, then stop and resume trolling. This sudden rise can trigger a “follower” into a biter.
Some good baits, scents for those terminals? A single kernel of cured white corn on each hook always does the job, but don’t overlook Berkley’s Gulp maggots in pink or natural white. Soak both cured corn and those Gulp maggots in the newest hotness for kokanee scents: tuna/garlic running off with the blue ribbon with tuna/anise a close second. Give your dodgers/squids/spinners a spray of New Rooster Tail spray scent in Trout Kokanee Magic.
With so many effective lure color, size, action and scent combinations you may put together with Fast Limit dodgers, Tight Lines and Spin-n-Glo kokanee rigs a bite is an experiment away. Don’t shy away from trying something new when kokanee trolling. Find your new favorite producers on your home lakes!