With help from a guide
Keith Kerrigan warned that Friday was two days shy of a full moon, making for less-than-ideal fishing conditions.
I didn’t care. And as long as his warning was understood, Kerrigan didn’t either.
So we boarded the local fishing guide’s custom, 21-foot Eagle powerboat a few minutes tardy of 5 a.m. and cast off the Donner Lake boat launch for a morning of fishing.
The crew included myself and Kerrigan, Sierra Sun photographer Court Leve, client Justin Barnill, of Carson City, and Star Dog, Kerrigan’s longtime four-legged companion.
Our plan: To target whopping mackinaw early, then switch things up and go for the ever-tasty Kokanee.
Between his four electric Scotty Downriggers, Kerrigan set up two lines with large J-Plugs ” one to cruise near the surface and the other at a depth of 120 feet ” and two with Megabaits of various sizes at 30 and 45 feet.
Kerrigan is not about wasting time.
With nothing doing trolling the west side of the lake, he swapped out the mackinaw lures one by one with his Sierra Anglers Spinner Bugs ” accompanied by white shoepeg corn and Kokanee Fire Corn on the hooks ” and headed east along the south shore.
Then, at 6:10 a.m., the rod with the red and black Spinner Bug at 30 feet began to dance. Upon instruction from our guide, Barnill grabbed the rod, yanked the line free of the downrigger and reeled in an 8- to 10-inch Kokanee. Kerrigan, noting that it was a “next year’s fish,” netted and released the catch.
After all, we were shooting for the 15-plus-inch variety.
Not 10 minutes later, the same rod did the same dance. This time I reeled in the Kokanee, which could easily have been a twin sibling of the first. “Next year’s fish” or not, it would not be so lucky as the first catch, as we threw the shiny little Kokanee in the keeper bucket.
Just as the sun pierced the horizon, adding a touch of warmth to the chilly morning and prompting the use of shades, a boat pulling a water skier swooped by unnecessarily close to us, and even closer ” illegally close ” to a fisherman on our left shoulder. With the entire north shoreline, and then some, open and fishing boats dotting the south side, the driver’s intentions seemed clear ” and they had nothing to do with making friends.
Oh well. What’s a fisherman to do? So we kept fishing.
Nearly an hour later, as Kerrigan changed up his lures every 20 minutes or so between reds and pinks, purples, blacks and blues, another small Kokanee, maybe 12 inches, took the bait and found itself in the keeper bucket.
After landing one more of similar size and losing another, we pulled the lines in and sped back to the launch ramp to drop off Leve by 9:45. Apparently, he didn’t have a full day to waste.
Kerrigan asked if Barnill and I were down for another round of mackinaw fishing. We were, of course. But we caught nothing.
Back at the launch ramp when all was said and done ” it had to have been around noon by this time ” a man pulling his boat out of the water offered us a Kokanee the size that we intended to catch.
Including that gift, we had a total of four Kokanee. I took one, which I barbecued as soon as I got home, and Barnill gladly brought home the other three to sample with his wife.
All in all we did OK, knowing the bite was not at its best.
And with the one I munched for lunch combined with the bag full of smoked Kokanee courtesy of Kerrigan, I got my fill of salmon for the day.
Contact Keith Kerrigan of Sierra Anglers Guide Service at (530) 414-1374 or http://www.sierraanglersfishing.com.