Stampede is growing for Kokanee salmon | SierraSun.com
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Stampede is growing for Kokanee salmon

Bruce Ajari

The Kokanee salmon has become a great addition to western waters. The Kokanee (Oncorhyncus nerka) is a landlocked form of sockeye salmon.

The Kokanee has a dark blue back and silvery sides. As the spawning season approaches, both male and female Kokanee turn a deep red and the lower jaw of the male develops a characteristic hook common to Pacific salmon.

While not a trout, Kokanee salmon and trout do belong to the same family. They are primarily plankton eaters and found in open-water areas of lakes. They like the same cool waters preferred by trout.

While they compete with small trout for food, they also provide forage for large lake trout (Mackinaw). This is one of the reasons that lake trout do well in Tahoe and Donner. Boca also has a fair population of Kokanee.

In our area, the best Kokanee fishing is found in Stampede Reservoir. Typically, fishing for these fish is outstanding from the latter part of April until the weather gets warm and drives the fish deeper. This year, the recent cool weather has allowed fishing to remain good into the early part of June.

Some of the largest Kokanee in the state, and perhaps the West, come out of Stampede. Fish in excess of 20 inches are possible.

Kokanee can be caught on flies, bait or lures. When trolling, a rubber snubber between line and leader prevents the hook from tearing out of their soft mouths.

When trolling, most anglers use some form of flasher set-up and a lure such as a wedding ring or Kokanee bug with a kernel of white corn on the hook. For some reason, the white corn is an essential part of the lure’s success.

This time of year, fish can usually be found in the upper reaches of the lake in about five to 10 feet of water. Before they spawn in the fall, they are typically in about 80 to 90 feet of water in Stampede. As spawning time nears, they move into shallow water to begin their runs up the feeder streams and gather over gravel bars in lakes to spawn.

Kokanee have become a much sought after sport-fish due to the availability of these fish. Kokanee cost much less than Rainbow trout to raise in a hatchery environment, so they are being planted in significant numbers each year. Anglers have become used to experiencing some success catching this game fish.

Besides their abundance, Kokanee are great fighters when hooked on light tackle. They are also great table fare. These attributes are additional reasons which explain the fish’s popularity.

Since most anglers troll for these fish, the downrigger has become a very popular device. Downriggers are able to get the offering to a precise depth quickly and maintain that level.

This is very important as fish tend to stratify and school according to water temperature. As the water warms, the fish will typically go into deeper water.

Downriggers typically do well when fishing in water in excess of 30-feet deep. Some feel that the noise of the boat makes a difference if a downrigger is used in less than 30 feet of water.

Finding the right temperature and fishing in the proper level of water is essential when the water warms in the early- to mid-summer months. Without a downrigger, one would have to use heavy leadcore or steel line to fish down deep.

If you have not fished for Kokanee salmon, you should give it a try. This time of year, the bite is usually quite good at our local lakes and reservoirs that have Kokanee.

Stop by your local sporting goods store to see what they have in the way of tackle, and where the bite is the best. Kokanee salmon are great fun to catch – give yourselves the opportunity try Kokanee fishing.

Fishing Report

Boca Reservoir – Boca is at 38,027 Acre Feet. Shore fishermen are doing fair to good. Some nice trout are still being taken on inflated nightcrawlers. Rainbows are taking power bait, salmon eggs. Trollers are catching some kokanee using flasher and Kokanee Bug combinations. Others are using minnow type lures or a flasher/worm combination for fair fishing for the rainbow and brown trout. Fly fishermen are doing fair to good using woolly buggers, nymphs, or midges near the inlet.

Donner Lake – Shore fishermen are taking planted rainbows, and a few nice brown trout. Most are dunking nightcrawlers, power bait, or salmon eggs near the boat ramp or west end beach. Trollers are taking some nice mackinaw. Jigging for mackinaw has also produced a few as well. Topliners should try the shallower water with flasher/worm combinations or minnow imitating lures.

Lake Tahoe – (6229.02 Lake Elevation) Mackinaw fishing remains good when the boats can get out. Some are being found in shallower water, but the majority are still being taken in water over 200 feet deep. Topliners are taking a few fish, but overall it is still pretty slow right now. Most fish are in the three to five pound range. Look for rainbow fishing to improve now that spawning fish are completing their cycle. Most use inflated nightcrawlers. Tributaries to Lake Tahoe are not open. They open July 1 and close September 30.

Martis Creek Reservoir – Martis is a zero kill lake – catch and release fishing only with only artificial lures with barbless hooks. No bait is allowed. Fishing has been fair to good. With the weather so changeable, the fishing has varied with it. A variety of nymphs, midges, and streamers have been successful. Try woolly buggers, bead head nymphs, midges, and emerger patterns. Blood midges are a good choice. Callibaetis have been effective about mid-morning. Damselfly imitations are beginning to produce as well. Fish are on small midges in the evenings.

Prosser Creek Reservoir – Prosser is at 26,859 Acre Feet. Fishing has been fair for shore fishermen. Most are using power bait, nightcrawlers, and salmon eggs. Trollers are having fair success. Most are trolling flasher/worm combinations or minnow imitating lures. Flyfishermen are having success with olive or black woolly buggers, nymphs and midges.

Stampede Reservoir – Stampede’s lake level is 194,358 Acre Feet. Shore fishermen have been taking some nice rainbows and browns. Most are using nightcrawlers, power bait or salmon eggs. Kokanee fishing still remains the main draw this time of year for trollers. The traditional flasher/wedding ring and white corn combination has been a good producer recently as have Ted’s Bugs and Kokanee Bugs. The cooler weather this past week should keep the Kokanee closer to the surface. Look for this to slow down as the water begins to warm with the weather. Flyfishermen have been taking a few fish on woolly buggers, nymphs, and midges near the inlet streams.

Truckee River – The flow on the Truckee has been increased to near 1000 CFS. The section between Truckee and River Ranch has been slow with the increased flow. Bait and lures have accounted for most of the fish. A few nice fish are still showing up. The Wild Trout Section below Truckee has been fishing well prior to the releases. It is pretty slow now. Concentrate on the eddies next to shore and around large boulders. Try standard nymphs such as the Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, Prince, Birds Nest, and Zug Bug. For dries and emergers try an Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Humpy or Quigley Cripple. Soft hackles can also be very effective on the Truckee.

Other Waters – The Little Truckee River has been fair to good. Most success has been by the fly fishermen working nymphs, streamers, and some sporadic dry fly action. Frenchmans Reservoir and Davis Lake have experienced ups and downs also with the weather. Both are experiencing improved fishing. Damsel imitations are beginning to do very well. The road to Jackson Meadows has been closed due to flood damage from the January 1 event. No word on exactly how long it will take to repair, but the initial estimates are for a long closure.


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