Testing the Kokanee bite | SierraSun.com

Testing the Kokanee bite

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Sylas Wright/Sierra SunA leadcore line setup towers over two downriggers intended to catch Kokanee on Donner Lake Saturday morning. Kokanee fishing on Donner was slow last weekend due to a rapid rise in water level late in the week. The Kokanee that have been caught in the lake early this summer, however, are larger than average for this time of year.
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“Those Kokanee aren’t gonna know what hit them,” I thought with smug certainty, banking on a tasty Saturday afternoon barbecue.

That was before my great uncle’s boat left the Donner Lake launch ramp in the wee hours of the weekend.

By the time “Zinger” returned to port hours later, my high hopes were deflated, dashed by all the salmon that chose not to sample the assortment of lures that graced the end of my line.

There was the one, though.

Less than 20 minutes into the trip a small Kokanee ” maybe 8 inches ” jumped on the white-and-pink Captain Jack’s Super Hoochie made by a guide specifically for Shaver Lake (some 200 miles south of here).

That was it. The next closest thing to a bite came about a half hour later when the out-of-town lure snagged another fisherman’s line and snapped, taking with it an attractive chartreuse dodger.

But I wasn’t the only one not catching fish.

My great uncle Rob, from Grass Valley, and his 7-year-old grandson Donald were skunked. As were others. I know because I hollered inquiries at several fishermen trolling by.

“Nah, tough bite this morning,” one man said with a shrug.

“Just one,” another answered.

Then I talked to Keith Kerrigan, owner of Sierra Anglers Guide Service and creator of Sierra Anglers Kokanee Lures.

Kerrigan, who splits his guide time mostly between Donner and Stampede Reservoir in the summer, said he caught seven Kokanee between two customers on Saturday and zero Kokanee on Sunday.

The slow Kokanee fishing, he said, can be attributed to Donner’s rapid rise in water level last week.

Before the weekend, however, Kerrigan said he was hauling in plump Kokanee up to 19 1/4 inches, which is larger than average for late May and early June.

“That’s just not really heard of this time of year,” he said.

The largest Kokanee Kerrigan has ever caught in Donner was a 3 1/2-pound, 21-inch brute, he said.

With the fish capable of growing an inch per month in the summer, simple math suggests that Donner’s Kokanee may reach 21-plus inches by season’s end.

So don’t give up on the Kokanee just yet.