Kokanee Fever, Kokanee Katching Thoughts Revisited
With the warmer weather it seems as though there is a renewed interest in kokanee fishing here in Western Washington. A number of fellow WashingtonLakers have already had successful kokanee outings on Lake Stevens, a popular north end kokanee lake. The other day while heading south to Everett to drop some recently fabricated boat parts off at the powder coater I was talking with my grandson (he never stops talking…) and he asked what a kokanee was. After my initial response that it was “beer in a blue can” he said "What? What is a kokanee?" Our little exchange got me to thinking that it was time for another Blog post and a sharing of kokanee information.
For good reason there is an increasing popularity in the overall kokanee fishery. Kokanee are a great sports fish, hard fighting and very tasty. First though I don’t believe in fishing secrets and as the season progresses I will try to share every detail that may be relevant in helping others to be successful kokanee fisherman. I hope that everyone will do the same, share your success and learn from others success. Until the season gets rolling my best advice is to believe in what you are fishing with and if you are not catching anything start systematically changing things until you figure the fish out. Systematic change means being able to assess the impact of the change on your fishing success. Never change two or more things at once. As an example; when you change a lure type or color run it at different depths before you make another change. Your goal is to know what speed, color, lure or depth works. Once you figure it out you can duplicate the changes on the remaining rods. By systematically changing your presentation you will be able to pinpoint what is working and what is not. Remember kokanee are schooling fish, where there is one there should be more willing to bite the same color lure at the same depth running at the same speed.
Although though you can catch kokanee without a fish finder, a quality fish finder is the single most important piece of equipment in your kokanee catching arsenal. Learn your electronics, the key is to understand and trust your particular electronics. Start fishing just above the thermocline and then make the necessary changes from there. As the lakes surface tempature starts to rise locating the thermocline is important in determining what depth to fish for kokanee. On a better meter the thermocline will show as a band of (for lack of a better term) interference. Typically the band of interference will be denser in the middle with a symmetrical dispersion of the interference above and below the denser area.
Kokanee rods? I have a ton of rods, OK maybe not a ton but 100 or so. I know that it sounds like a lot but if you consider that I have been collecting them for 30+ years it is not too bad. As an avid fisherman and having lived in different areas of the country I was outfitted for a number of regional specific fisheries and I still have almost every rod I have ever owned. Within my rod collection there are 6 rods that I would consider my "kokanee rods"; 2 Lamiglas team Kokanee rods (the red ones), 3 Fetha Styx FS-FW-761-2C (7’ 6” 4-10#) and 1 Lamiglas AC 73UL (7’ 3” 2-8#). I have successfully caught kokanee on other rods in my collection but the 6 noted provide a great balance of control verses a forgiving action.
The Team Kokanee rods are exceptional downrigger rods providing a consistent parabolic bend when set up in the downrigger clip. They recover quickly after a takedown and provide the necessary backbone to fight the fish while the boat is still in gear and moving forward. I absolutely love the Fetha Styx rods mentioned for kokanee or any lake downrigger fishing. They have the backbone required to control any fish you might catch, including sockeye while still having a very forgiving overall light action. In my opinion they are the perfect freshwater downrigger rods. The last rod, my Lami Rock Creek rod may seem a bit on the light side but it kicks butt. Last spring while fishing a local lake I happened to locate a few large trout and during the course of a couple hours I hooked 5 monster trout. A couple threw the hook at the last minute but I was still able to put three on ice where the largest was over 6 pounds. I was fishing solo at the time but was confident that I had control of each fish right to the end.
I prefer using the round baitcaster reels for all my downrigger fishing. They are simple to operate while setting gear, feel good in my hand, have a smooth drag and offer the most control of your aquatic nemesis. I am partial to Shimano products but have also have had exceptional luck with the Caiman reels. Choose a reel brand that you are comfortable with and assure that it balances well with the rod it will be used on. Braid verses mono? I prefer braid on all of my trolling gear. For trout/kokanee fishing I spool the reel with the appropriate braid then add a 20-50’ top shot of 4-8# fluorocarbon. I have been successfully running this braid/fluorocarbon combination for years and have never had a fish pop off because there was no stretch in the line. My rods and the drag setting help to provide the shock resistance required to land the soft mouthed kokanee. I don’t put every fish hooked in the boat but am very successful with this combination. Don't over think the rod choice and remember; the rod that catches the most kokanee, is the one in the water fishing.
Technique and what gear to run? The list is endless but here are a few ideas to get you started. While downrigger fishing, with the boat moving forward at your chosen trolling speed set your gear in the water well clear of the prop-wash and establish the set back (the distance between the downrigger clip and your attactor). With the exception of some specialized techniques I usually run a set-back of 24’–30’. Once the downrigger is at depth and rod is in the holder I usually don’t crank reel until the rod, line and release clip have become one with the rod tip at the water. I usually set it so the release clip and cable angle is somewhere around 45 degrees (you will have to experiment with your individual speed and set-up), and is somewhat loose so the bite is easily detectable. I never use the trolling snubbers, but then again I have lost a couple nice fish at the boat because of the hook pulling out of a kokanee's soft mouth so they may be a good idea. I have gone exclusively to double hook rigs when kokanee fishing and rarely loose a fish because the hook just pulls out of the fish. If our boat looses a fish it would be because of some form or another of operator error, not a fish lip related problem. I have been asked about treble hooks for kokanee. I never use treble hooks in my trolling rigs and with some exceptions I custom tie all my rigs using size 6 or size 4 octopus hooks. I feel very confident with my 2 hook rigs. Leader length varies from lure to lure. With a squid type of lure and depending on the day you may be fishing a very short leader, maybe as short as 8”. With a spinner type lure or a spoon I rarely use a leader longer than 18” and usually my leader is around 14”. Regarding commercial wedding band spinners, they work great out of the package but I would tie up some 2 hook leaders using size 6 octopus hooks and then restring the wedding band stuff on the 2 hook leaders. For bait I am partial to the corn but always have worms and maggots on board also. I do use various scents on the individual lure, attractors and on the bait. I am also equipped with every color in the rainbow because in my experience depending on the weather, body of water that is being fished and water temperature the fish will key in on different colors. You need to be prepared to change presentations as required. I carry many different attractors, lure types, baits and scents and will make changes as conditions are dictated by the often finicky kokanee. What worked yesterday may or may not work today and what is working now may not work an hour from now. Be prepared to change.
Regarding trolling speed, although there are exceptions kokanee like a trolling speed of 0.9 -1.7 mph. I always try to start out at around 1.0 mph but depending on conditions that may change. I vary my speed often both via motor speed and by trolling an “S” pattern. My main motor will reliably idle in gear at about 1.2-1.4 mph. If I need to run slower I just put the electric trolling motor in reverse and I am able to fish as slow as .8 mph.
When fishing our local Westside lakes my initial plan of attack is to run at least one downrigger rod and one flat-line rig. It varies from there depending on the number of fisherman on board. I am often running 4 rods, 2 off the downriggers, 1 lead-line rig and 1 flat line rig. I will run the downrigger gear deep chasing meter marks. The lead line will start out at about 1 color and the flat line rig will start out at 60’ behind the boat.
Generally I prefer to fish the swing blades but there are times when the dodgers out fish the swing blades. The swing blades create lass drag while trolling and when a fish is hooked the swing blade stops swinging so there is less drag on the line while fighting the fish. In my opinion the dodger creates more action at the lure and will telegraph action to the bulkier or heavier lures. Both work and lure action is only part of it, the attractor creates a low frequency sound wave that is like the dinner bell for kokanee. Regarding color, because our Westside lakes are typically peat bogs and the water is stained I prefer gold, copper, brass or some version of in prism tape. I have been experimenting with UV reflective tape and have had tremendous success. The old school side of me likes the various hammered dodgers in brass, copper or half-n-half but I run many different colors of attractors and have had success on all of them. I believe that the new UV finishes available the last couple years have revolutionized our local kokanee fishing. I typically fish the 0000 size dodgers and 4 ½” swing blades.
My leader lengths vary widely depending on the lure and about 100 other variables. There are times when I will fish mini squids or non-spinning lures with leaders as short as 4 or 5” but typically I fish about an 8 – 12” leader with the mini squids. For spinner blade type lures I will fish a 10 – 18” leader. When trolling spoons behind the attractor I will use a 12 - 20” leader depending on the weight and action of the lure. I think that the general rule of thumb is 1½ - 2 times the length of the attractor but I often bend the rules and use what works.
Ok, the technique has been put to bed now what about your boat? As I have said before “The best boat you can have for catching kokanee is the one you already own.” To optimize your current boat for trout or kokanee fishing there are a few things to consider. I shared a version of the following information via a blog post a year or so ago but thought the information will prove useful as we get ready for this year’s kokanee assault. As with the purchase, everything that I do to the boat is well thought out and typically has a specific purpose. In rigging the boat I am interested in making it a capable general all-around fishing platform targeted towards trout, kokanee and freshwater salmon but usable in the salt. Following are my general thoughts on setting up the perfect trout/kokanee fishing machine.
Rod Holder Orientation and Location:
Purchase and install more rod holder mounts than you will use at a given time. Make sure that both the rotational and the horizontal angles are adjustable, while lake fishing more often than not you will be fishing with the rod parallel to the water. Different types of fishing; trolling, drift or anchor still fishing or side drifting require your rod holders to be in different locations. Think before you drill! Will the butt of the rod interfere with another on board activity? Are they accessible for the different types of fishing? Are they convenient to the operation of the downrigger(s)? Are they handy to the operator while seated in the driving position? Again think before you drill, placement of the rod holders is critical for success in any fishery.
I have to admit that I catch as many trout and kokanee on 12# or 14# lead line than the downrigger rod but I think that the downrigger is consistently responsible for larger fish and fighting a fish is just plain more fun. On my boat the downriggers, associated rod holders and fish finder are located so that they can be monitored while driving the boat. For me this is critical, I often chase meter marks and the three need to be convenient to each other and the boat operator. Spring for the braided downrigger line, it is silent in the water, offers less resistance or blow-back and is easily repairable if the line is damaged. Make sure that where ever your mounting location is, it is sturdy and use backing plates and fender washers for the mount installation. In choosing the mounting location make sure you can manage your downrigger balls without falling overboard. Are you able to access the release clip with some degree of safety? Consider some form of ball retriever, a boat hook, a rod with a hook on it or a commercially available ball retriever will all work. I use the Scotty ball retriever system and love them. Also to be considered; are you able to pull up to a dock without formally introducing the downrigger arm to the dock facing boards or another boat?
I have operated everything from a high-end Furuno Ethernet system to a 100.00 portable. All have their place and while more is cool, less or what you need is better. For trout or kokanee typically you don’t care as much about bottom structure or the various navigation features (although they are nice to have). You’re looking for a thermocline, schooling or individual fish. I started with a grayscale FF and have caught plenty of fish with the grayscale FF technology, for that matter still do (it is my portable unit). That said grayscale units are not ideal for studying the thermocline and in my opinion you need a color unit. Although my unit has a fish ID capability I never use it preferring the actual sonar history or fish arches. Regarding settings, where most people try to eliminate clutter on their fish finder screens I welcome it and typically tune things up to acquire more data to make decisions from. I want lots of clutter on my screen, clutter means more information is available. I usually have the sensitivity set pretty high, the noise filter off and surface clutter set low. On my rig I can see the difference between the clip and the downrigger ball and can make out multiple individual fish. With the unit being color I can tell the difference between other fish and kokanee with some degree of accuracy.
Kokanee have proportionately larger air bladders than other fish their size. When running your fish finder in the arch mode Kokanee will typically be distinguishable from other fish. I know that cone angle, frequency, water conditions, the fish’s position within your transducer cone and other factors will affect your ability to interpret sonar readings but generally when fishing for kokanee the fish arches showing on your meter will have a red area in the middle of the arch. Thermocline is also important in determining what depth to fish for kokanee. On a better meter the thermocline will show as a band of (for lack of a better term) interference. Typically the band of interference will be denser in the middle with a symmetrical dispersion of the interference above and below the denser area.
While kokanee fishing in the spring and early summer I often have the FF set with a lower range of 50’ or 60’ and the upper range is set at 10’-15’. Typically I am not concerned with anything above or below this range. With my screen only displaying a band of 40’ or 50’ of water I am able to see additional detail and the fish arches are more defined. An added benefit is that the scale is not jumping around as the auto depth feature detects different depths. For trout or kokanee typically you’re looking for a thermocline, schooling or even individual fish. Each trip and in each body of water you will need to tune the unit for the conditions.
During a typical day of trout or Kokanee fishing I may change lures 50 times. Unless I kept things organized my boat would be a war zone, difficult to move around in and generally unsafe. While fishing for anything, keep everything organized. On my boat I have found that the pipe installation type leader keepers are an excellent way to keep pre-rigged lures and leaders organized. I frequently have a 80# dog and kids on board so the placement of unused rods, the net, pliers, dikes and even the garbage is well thought out. The boat is still a mess at the end of the day but at least I started with a plan. For your boat look carefully at your needs, spend an hour or so just sitting in it while parked in the driveway and think out your organizational approach. Everybody’s will be different depending on, finances, time spent in the boat, your physical limitations, whether or not you fish solo, type of fishing excreta… Take the time to organize your boat and there will be a higher likelihood that your on the water experience will be a positive one. If not at least you’ll be able to find the first aid kit if you need it, which reminds me…make sure you have some form of basic first aid kit on board.
A lot to read, but I hope that it was found useful. This year should bring some awesome fishing opportunities and being prepared with a plan will help to assure that you get the most out of your fishing time.
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Posted: 03-05-2013, 12:27 PM
How I caught my P.B. in Washington this fall.
I just wanted to share my first attempt at video editing and some short footage I got of my Biggest bass out of Washington State. The cold weather is making me stir crazy already. Happy Holidays!!!
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Posted: 11-28-2012, 12:32 AM
How to Get That Fish You Just Hooked on the String
So you’ve put in your hours on the river, bought all the
tackle, fished a float, drift fished, filled your tackle box up and now you’ve
finally hooked your first fish! That’s
the moment when you see that float down, and you feel the hard tug of a big
fish. Your adrenaline is pumping. You’re drag starts singing. You rod’s doubled
over and you’re knee deep in the water and just holding on. Now what?
Hooking a fish is hard enough, but when you get it on you
are only half way there. Lots of anglers will find that once they hook the
fish, they can have a hard time getting it to shore. Let’s talk about some of
the techniques that will help you get that fish on the stringer, rather than swimming
around in the river 30 seconds later with a sore jaw. Nothing is more disappointing
than feeling that tug and losing that fish.
Keep your Cool –
You’re first instinct when you hook a fish is to reel and
reel until he gets in. You’re going to have to suppress that instinct. When you
get that hook lodged deeply in the fishes jaw, yell “FISH ON!!!!” really loud.
This lets the other anglers around you know to reel up and let you play out
your fish. After that, take a moment before you start reeling to see what that
fish is going to do. It may make a line peeling run, or it may just try to sit
on the bottom, and what it does is going to dictate what you do next.
With the tackle that we’re using to hook fish, we’re
probably going to be fishing with light line and a lighter rod than you’d think
would be capable of bringing in such a big fish. This is when playing out the
fish is going to be important, because if you just try to yank it in, you’re
looking at broken leaders and bent hooks. Let the rod do the work.
Let the Drag and your Rod do the Work
It’s important that you set your drag for about half the
breaking strength of your leader. This is going to keep you from breaking off.
When that fish runs, your drag is your defense against a broken line. You’re
going to use the flexibility if your rod as a cushion against the violent
headshakes, taking the force of a powerful fish and spreading it out to your
rod likes a spring. Every time the fish pulls against the rod, he’s using up a
little bite more of the energy that he has, and the length and taper of the rod
is going to help you tire him out. A tired fish is a docile fish and much
easier to net.
Your rod is going to have the most power when it’s kept at a
45 degree angle to the water. If you hold your rod straight up, you’re putting
all of the pressure of the fish on the tip of your rod rather than pulling against
the entirety of the rod. The main strength of your rod is going to be in the
butt or lower section of your rod. Keeping your rod at 45 is going to use all
of that power to your advantage.
You’re going to look at the river and get the lay of the
land. Across the way there may be some stumps in the water. You don’t want the
fish to head that way. Downstream from you, you have the tail out, which
includes a large riffle with swift current and large rapids that will drag that
big fish downstream and spool you in seconds flat. At your feet Are some large
boulders, upstream you have fellow anglers with their floats still out. You
need to take control of that fish and direct him into the one place he doesn’t
want to go: your net!
When that fish starts to run downstream, the first thing you
want to do is bring your rod down and lay it against the water upstream. That
will pull its head around and send him towards you and turn him upstream. You’re
going to want to pull against the direction that the fish wants to go. When he
heads back upstream, turn your rod and pull in the opposite direction. Putting
pressure against the fish parallel to the surface of the water is going to
encourage that fish to stay in the water, rather than jumping up and out.
Try to avoid pulling straight up on the fish, because this
is going to pull his head up and out of the water. As cool as it is to see that
fish tail walk across the top of the water, there is a reason why they’re
jumping. It’s the best way for them to gain slack in the line to shake that
hook. Tension on the line is the most important part of the fight. If you lose
the connection between you and the fish, that split second is when the fish is
going to have the leverage to get the hook out of its mouth. Jumping is the best way for it to get that
leverage. A good technique for subduing a jumping fish is to lower your rod tip
and pull down on the fish, sending him back down into the water.
Pump the Rod and Keep Tension
You’re going to want to bring that fish closer to you. That
can be hard if you’re just reeling him in, he’s pulling too hard against the
drag and you’re still losing line. The way that you’re going to gain line on
the fish is by pumping him in. Raise your rod up to the 45, and as you bring is
back down, reel up fast on it ensuring that you don’t lose tension on the fish.
As you’re pumping him in, you’re going to continue directing the fish with your
rod angle. When the fish makes a run, you’re going to have to let it run. Reeling
against a running fish is going to twist your line up, and isn’t going to do
much to gain any ground on it.
Palming or Thumbing the Spool
There will be circumstances where that fish is going to make
a run towards the sticks that you just can’t stop with the drag alone. This is
when the knowledge of the breaking strength of your line and rod are going to
be the key. To slow the fish you’re going to have to palm the spool, gently
pushing on it to add that additional drag on the fish to slow him down. A lot
of times that additional and sudden force on the fish can stop it dead in its
tracks and send him in the opposite direction. The danger here is that that
additional drag is going to have the ability to break your line. Knowing how
much pressure you can put on a fish before the line breaks is something that
you’re going to have to be able to feel out, and with a little time you’re
going to have a feel for your gear and know that lines breaking strength. Of
course this is going to be your last resort when trying to stop the fish,
because the risk of breaking off is going to be pretty high.
Take your Time and Tire Him Out
The object is to tire that fish out so that you can bring
him to shore and get him in the net. Don’t try and net the fish until its good
and tired out, because as soon as it sees the net, it’s going to run again, and
often that first glimpse of shore is going to summon the strength to escape
that the fish didn’t even know he had. You’ll often times get the most exciting
runs out of the fish the moment that he sees the gravel, and you’ll have to
hold on. Take your time and tire him out so that the fish is not going to be
thrashing around when that net comes for him.
Banking and Netting
When netting the fish, net it head first, and don’t net
until you know you’re going to get it. Missed lunges are going to knock that
leader free, and fish lost at the net are the worst type of fish. Have your
netter ready with the net halfway in the water, direct the fishes head towards
the net and use a fluid swift stroke to engulf the entire fish in the bag. When
the fish is in the bag, you’re going to pull it straight back and up, folding
the net around the fish, making sure that he can’t escape. Get the net and fish
up on dry land before you unhook him, and if you’re going to keep the fish,
give him a quick whack on the head to calm that flopping. When you’re looking
at nets, make sure that you get one that is bigger than you think you need,
because if you’ve got a bag that is too short and you have the fish only half
way in, he’s going to slide right out and break your leader.
With these techniques, you’re going to be able to bring that
fish to shore quick, and you’ll have more fish on the card than in the water.
Playing a fish is simple: keep tension, take your time, direct its movements
and pump him in.
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Posted: 10-28-2012, 12:32 AM
9/22 - Late Summer | Early Fall Top Water Bite
While fishing last saturday, I managed to catch only 2 bass but they were both on topwater lures! The bass were nowhere to be found under docks. We only found fish on the edges of pad fields or near steep drop offs into deeper water.
The first bass hit just below the surface (less than 1 feet) on the River2Sea Larry Dahlberg Diver Frog 60! I haven't fished this frog much because it sort of got lost in my boxes of tackle. But I was glad I fished it on this day!
The second bass smashed my Koppers Live Target Bluegill Wakebait right at the boat!
Both videos are below. Enjoy!
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Posted: 09-28-2012, 12:32 AM
Swimbaits for Big Bass!
I just wanted to share a video clip Elija got of me landing my personal best Largie out of Wa. state. His scale got it @ 6.14 but I'm quite sure it was over 7 lb. Who knows? I was very excited because I've been toying w/ swimbait a lot lately and lost some big fish. Anyway, enjoy and tight lines!
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Posted: 09-25-2012, 12:23 PM
Skinny water Coho, Kings and Late Summer Steel
It’s been a while since I posted an update, so I figured I
better let you know where we’re at this summer. I say summer, even though we’d
like it to be fall, as we wait and hope for rain, we’ve still been enjoying the
heat. We’re getting great weather, but the drawback is that the fish don’t
enjoy it nearly as much as we do! Even so, this is an exciting time of year,
with the summer runs trailing off we have some great new opportunities on the
Olympic Peninsula, the Skagit and the Cowlitz.
As a lot of you have already experienced this summer has
been tough with the arrival of the silvers coinciding with low clear water. We’ve
been finding conditions on the Duwamish, Snohomish and Stilliguamish less than
favorable for these finicky fish to turn aggressive. With these fish locked
down and nervous, it can feel like you’re slamming your head against the brick
as you see rollers on front and feel nothing on the end all day.
All is not lost however, and we have been able to find fish
that are willing to come out and play, even in these dry and bright summer
conditions. We’ve spent a lot of time on the water in these past few weeks and
have found that a few things have helped to bring more fish to shore. Here are
a few tips that have been effective for us.
As traditional logic dictates, you don’t leave fish to find
fish, especially if you don’t have a guarantee that you’re going to find
anything somewhere else. This hasn’t been working for us lately. The fish are
starting to fill up the rivers, and as more fish come in behind, they’re
pushing out those fish that would like to sit in that bigger lower water and
moving them upstream. This means that there are fish collecting throughout the
system, and so you can find them in a lot of different spots. When we see a big
school sitting in a hole, it’s tempting to throw at them all day in the hopes
that one will break down and bite. However, what we’ve found is that if they
aren’t in the mood, they’re not going to be in the mood all day.
Covering water and showing our bait to a lot of different
fish has given us the opportunity to seek out those aggressive and willing
players that others have passed over. We’ve also found the the higher the
concentration of fish, the fewer willing players we’ve found. When we come up
on a nice little pocket that may only have a couple of stragglers witting in
it, these guys have been our best bet. The majority of the fish we’ve touched
have not even showed themselves, not really rolling around or hitting the top
of the water at all. We’ll hit one of these holes for 15 to 20 minutes, and
then we’ll move on. Some of these fish want to eat, but most of them don’t, so
seeking out the biters has been the key.
As some of you know, I’m a big advocate for light tackle,
and that has been paying off. We’ve been using a lighter presentation, with
less weight, smaller hooks and not a lot of flash. When drifting, we’ve had our
best luck running 10 lbs. main with 8 lbs. fluorocarbon leader. Small beads or
corkies will impress those wary fish while not giving them a reason to run when
they see a big black slinky running across the rocks next to your bait. Natural
colors in pink and egg orange have worked, green infertile egg bead imitations
with a small tuft of purple yarn has been a favorite for these Coho.
When float fishing, we’ve been using jigs, Dick Nites and
bait under a small clear drift floats have been. With water like this, stealth
is key right now. Small 1/8 ounce jigs with a healthy amount of marabou to give
a sweet little tail twitch have actually been working quite well. Add a tiny
bit of prawn to the tip for scent and you’ll have a good chance. When you can
use bait, small sand shrimp tails have been working the best. Drift them under
a float like a jig for the proper presentation. We’ve been working right on the
bottom, an inch or two above. Getting that bait to bump right into their head
has been our best bet. I know that we all love the hard hit of a big Coho on
hardware, but we’ve found that if they don’t hit it right away, they’re not
going to hit it. We follow a protocol, float bait through, jigs and drift
fishing water depending, and then we hit it with a spinner. If that doesn’t
work, we move on.
While the fishing has been tough, the big fish are in! We’ve
had the opportunity to play with some teeners lately, so it’s totally worth the
On the more optimistic front, we have been having
spectacular luck on the trout front. Summer steelhead, Dolly Varden and sea run
cutthroat have been more than willing to play, and with most of the angling
pressure focused on the Coho in the lower river, it has made for a great change
of pace. Stealth again is key, sneak up on your favorite hole, go light on your
tackle and give a proper presentation and you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.
There is something to be excited about though. My favorite
spots on the Olympic Peninsula are starting to fill up with fall Chinook! I’m
booking trips out there for the first week of October, and it’s a time of year
I look forward to from January. If you’re tired of fighting the crowds on the Puget
Sound area rivers, these may be the trips for you. Learning the river early in
the season will give you the edge when the run is in full swing later on, and
you don’t want to miss these wild and scenic fish. Some of the biggest fish I’ve
caught have come from these rivers, the Humptulips, Queets and Wynoochee offer
relief from the shoulder to shoulder days on the Snohomish.
If you don’t mind hanging out with some fellow anglers, the
Cowlitz system is probably one of the best places to learn to salmon fish with
a high chance to bring in our favorite fall kings. With big numbers, both in
the return of fish and pounds on the scale, the Cowlitz can quickly become your
favorite river relatively close to home.
So if you’re looking to get into fish this year, now is the
perfect time to get out and hone your skills. Book an early trip on the Oly Pen
to get the edge when that run is in full swing! I have some openings in the
next few weeks, but they’re filling up fast. Good luck on the water, and I look
forward to fishing with you in the coming weeks.
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Posted: 09-25-2012, 09:20 AM
Everett Coho Derby! I Have Some Thoughts
a few inquiries regarding my thoughts on this year’s coho fishing I got to
thinking that a Blog post may be in order. So just in time for the Everett Coho
Derby… Our recent coho success or even the bigger picture, my boats overall
success on the salt this year is not just luck but I am not sure what it has
been. There are a few constants in our methods so here is what I know.
year a majority of our saltwater salmon fishing has been off the downriggers
pulling 11” flashers followed by a spoon or a hoochie of some sort. I love
mooching cut-plug herring and usually am quite successful with it, but quality
local herring has been hard to come by. The herring issue combined with the
fact that for the most part the mooching fisheries on Puget Sound are either
too crowded or further away than the various troll fisheries, has put me on the
troll. On my boat I run manual Scotty downriggers (electrics are on the list)
so my rig is nothing fancy. I removed the stainless steel downrigger cable that
came with my downriggers and I spooled them with the synthetic braided
downrigger cable. The braid significantly reduced my blow-back. The braid is
also much quieter in the water with zero cable whine. I have three sets of
downrigger balls, an 8# set for trout and kokanee fishing, a 10# set for
freshwater salmon and finally a 12# set for saltwater trolling. This winter I
plan to modify my downrigger mounts and may run 14# balls in the salt when all
is done. My blow-back is about 30 degrees when fishing for chinook and 45 degrees
when fishing for coho. As might be expected those are only rough guidelines and
you will need to work out your boat’s sweet spot. Actual boat speed is harder
to figure out. These days most boats are running GPS based speed indicators not
over the water. On the sound or even in a river the current and wind can
greatly impact your GPS verses over the water speed indication. For my boat our
idea trolling speed is more based on the tachometer reading and blow-back than
on some form of speedometer reading. Our RPM based speeds are 1,050-1,100 RPM
for coho, 1,000 RPM for chinook and 450 RPM (yes 450 rpm, I am able to
advance/retard my timing to give me more control over idle speed) for
freshwater salmon, trout and kokanee.
try not to keep any secrets and for the most part will share any information
that may help other fisherman be successful. This helps to feed a network of
fishing information that is often used to plan a trip. I rarely just go fishing
and the planning for the next trip starts with the fish caught during the
previous trip. Although more aligned with saltwater fishing than fresh I always
make a point to check stomach contents. That is the fishes not mine, I usually
have some idea what is in mine. If the fish are loaded with horse herring,
gravel and candlefish, krill or some other form of aquatic tidbit I adjust the
lure type and size accordingly. Many of the Mukilteo to Shipwreck coho I have dissected
this year have had empty stomachs. To me this suggests that that many of the
fish have already stopped feeding and are transitioning to a reaction or
territorial based strike instinct. To align my lure strategy accordingly I have
incorporated some of the crazier spoon patterns or have included an orange or
red insert in my hoochies. I am keeping all my offerings on the smaller side. For
my overall saltwater fishing this year the year to date stomach content analysis
suggests that candlefish have made up a bulk of the available food source. To “Match
the Hatch” I am running the smaller spoons and candlefish or needlefish
hoochies. Although I always hit the water with my standard lures tied up and
ready to go, chinook gear on 42” leaders and coho gear on 32” leaders I always
have the materials on board to retie and make adjustments as necessary. As part
of my pre-trip planning I always thoroughly research the tides, based on the
tides I establish a plan, a back-up plan and a back-up to the back-up plan. Although
you need to be able to shoot from the hip, I rarely just wing it and fish without
a plan. I know the early morning fishery is usually better, but don’t count out
the various tide phases at different locations. Last year while fishing the
south sound I had a 12 hour fishing plan that included hitting various
locations at specific tidal phases, including one that I felt would be holding
fish for about ½ hour during an afternoon tide. We arrived and with gear down
just 10 minutes we hooked two adult kings putting one of the fish in the boat.
On arrival I knew exactly what I had planned to run, at what depth, direction
and speed. Planning, planning planning!
speed dialed in, lures in order and your chosen hunting area all sorted out now
what about depth? For me that is a tough one. I know that when coho fishing the
standby theory is to start shallow and then fish deeper as the day progresses.
I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory and start by looking for meter
marks. If I am not seeing fish or bait I move on but when I do, that is the
depth that I fish. While fishing recently and having very good success, every
single hit we had was off a meter mark. I was constantly adjusting the depth
the gear was running at to align with the meter marks. Many times I had just
raised or lowered the gear to a meter mark when WHAM-O we would hit a fish.
Sure you can catch fish by running your gear at a set depth and just trolling
around until you hook a fish but your odds of hooking-up are greatly increased
by chasing meter marks. I am constantly watching the meter and make immediate
depth adjustments when I see a meter mark. After a hook-up I try to hit the “MARK”
button on my fishfinder and will usually circle back around and re-run the
area. I almost always leave the boat in gear after a hook-up and adjust the
other downrigger to whatever depth the fish hit at. Again recently this tactic
produced multiple doubles one set being a 10# and a 13# coho. Chasing meter
marks is a lot of work but very effective.
have been launching early, less to hit the early bite than to avoid a
hocus-pocus and long wait at the ramp. We have caught fish all hours of the day
and through all phases of the tide. That said I have found the schools to be
more organized first thing in the morning. I think that the boat pressure tends
to scatter the fish making it more important to chase meter marks as you move
away from the early am fishing hours.
rigging my hoochies I tie the leader to assure that the trailing hook is placed
so that it is exposed behind the hoochie/insert combination. I use beads if
required to align the bend of the leading hook with the forward edge of the
hoochie tentacle slits. A final thought, although antidotal this year I have
found that while running hoochies, smaller herring strips have been much more
effective than full herring strips. Also, when running spoons I use banana
smelly jelly, NOT! For the smaller spoons I use anchovy and the larger spoons
either herring or bloody tuna smelly jelly scent.
hope this helps or is at least a starting point for your coho success. Pre-trip
planning will not guarantee success but will greatly improve your odds of going
home with a box full of something other than melted ice and waterlogged bologna
sandwiches. For your drooling pleasure I have included some snapshots from my fish
finder. Each one of them was taken as a fish hit and kicked out of the
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Posted: 09-20-2012, 10:56 AM
3 Days, 403 Fish, Feeding Bald Eagles!
I was fortunate enough to fish Lake Roosevelt with my ex boss the past 2 weekends!
We fished a full day on 9/8 and put 100 smallmouth and 1 walleye in the boat! We fished only about 3 hours on 9/9 before being blown off the lake by 35+ mph winds but still put 56 smallmouth in the boat!
We fished a full day on 9/14 and put 121 smallmouth in the boat! We fished another full day on 9/15 and put 151 smallmouth in the boat! We fished a little more than half a day on 9/16 and put 130 smallmouth and 1 walleye in the boat! This give us a 3 day total of 403 fish!
We were targeting points and offshore structure in various depths of water with finesse tactics and we absolutely slayed the fish! With such a huge smallmouth population and not enough food, the majority of the fish are quite stunted. We caught countless fish in the 1/2 lb range with several in the 1 - 2 lb range. All of these fish are feeding up for fall and are super fat like footballs! A lot of them were puking up baitfish (fry?) sculpins and craws.
I didn't record much fishing because I forgot to bring my battery charger for my spare batteries. But I did record some footage of us feeding 2 Bald Eagles! Mike has put in some time over the past 1.5 years or so training these eagles. They're so smart that if we get within a couple coves of the cove where they live, they will come flying over and perch in the trees or on the rocks. We fed them a few dink smallies and I got some footage of it!
Here is a picture of a nice, chunky, super strong 1 lb 14 oz smallmouth that took me for a ride! These river smallmouth are So Strong and put up a fight similar to that of a smallie twice their size!
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Posted: 09-16-2012, 11:11 PM
Topwater Bass Fishing With Frogs!
So it has been one of my goals this year to catch my first bass on a topwater frog. It has never been one of my confidence baits and I have never stuck with it long enough to catch a bass with it. I had several blow ups last year on frogs such as the Spro Bronzeye, Koppers Live Target Hollow Body Frog, and the Paycheck Baits Transporter Frog. However, I was never lucky enough to get a good hookset on any of those fish. Even though I let the fish take the bait and eat it, I got the short end of the stick and they always managed to spit it just as I was setting the hook.
Well, my luck changed today. I was using a Booyah Pad Crasher and I managed to catch 2 largemouth bass with it. I even caught both of these fish on camera! This is by far my favorite frog. It has a keel shaped body that allows it to walk really well and much more effortlessly than some other frogs that I have used. It also has the softest body that I have ever felt that collapses with very little pressure, exposing the hooks. The hooks are also super sharp and I believe that the way that they are positioned gives you the absolute best chance of hooking up with a fish.
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Posted: 08-26-2012, 10:14 PM
Tough Summer Fishing
So I haven't been able to fish much with work overtaking my life. But I did manage to get out for a a short trip the last couple weekends. The bite has been pretty tough on the lakes I've fished. Caught just a small handful of dinks but I finally caught a nice, fat 2 lb 13 oz chunk!
Didn't get any footage of the fights but took short clips of some of my catches.
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Posted: 08-01-2012, 10:19 PM