How to Catch Kokanee
Rods and Reels
This is a personal preference. Most fishermen choose rods in the 7 to 7 1/2 foot range, either
light action fiberglass or graphite with a sensitive tip tapering to a more powerful butt.
Level-wind reels are preferred. Buy the ones with the best drags you can find. The Kokanee
will not wear your drags out. Lowering your lures down the downrigger will. A worn drag soon
gets herky-jerky. This will pull your line out of the sensitive downrigger release clip you'll need
to catch kokanee. A bad drag will drive you crazy, and cost you lots of fishing time. Spinning
reels are not popular with the experts. In the hands of an inexperienced angler a spinning reel
can cause excessive line twist while fighting a fish and can cost you fish. Since no casting is
involved in this fishery a level-wind reel is quickly mastered by all. Most kokanee fishermen
will use line in eight to ten pound test both for mainline and leader. Green colored line is
preferred. On rare occasions (in extremely clear lakes) the experts will will go down to
six- and even four-pound leaders, but only if absolutely necessary. Be careful of the new
"no stretch" lines. They can create too much pull on a kokanee's soft mouth.
Electronic Fish Finders
This is an absolute must for serious lake trolling, and especially so for chasing kokanee. This may be painful to hear, but many fish finder models do not work well for kokanee. What you need in a fishfinder for kokanee is lots of power and pixels. The power is necessary for your fish finder to shoot a wide cone. The wider the cone, the more area under your boat you can read. If you purchase an inexpensive fish finder ($150 to $300 range) they usually come with an 18 degree cone. This is fine for shallow water bass fishing. But when you set your fish finder to read between 20 to 100 feet of water an 18 degree cone at 20 feet will only read a 6.36 foot circle, at 40 feet a 12 foot circle and a 100ft a 32 foot circle. Wider cones are preferred so that you can see kokanee that may only be twenty to thirty feet down. Furuno has available a 48.6 degree cone. This powerful cone reads a circle 17 feet wide at 20 feet, 34.5 feet wide at 40 feet ,and 86 feet wide at 100 feet. It is critical to know if you are passing over kokanee, and if they are not biting your lures. The more area you can see under your boat will enable you to make the decisions on what to use and what to change. You must have power and pixels to get the electronic information you need. The detailed pixels will allow you to distinguish kokanee blips from king salmon and rainbows. Fish finders cannot read through air. Most fish have air bladders. The locator beam put out by your fish finder passes through water but cannot pass through air. Fish finders read the air bladder of a fish, and the image is bounced back to you. For their size kokanee have very large, cylindrical air bladders that run the entire length of their body cavity. The air bladder on a king salmon is long and thin because it is partially atrophied or collapsed. It is a longer broken up image on your fishfinder. Rainbows have larger bladders but a completely different shape than a king or kokanee. A better fish finder can accurately read and consistently distinguish between the electronic image of a kokanee, king or rainbow. Once you get used to it you can selectively target kokanee and not waste your time with other species.
Downriggers are an absolute must for successful kokanee fishing. On light tackle kokanee are spectacular fighters. To enjoy this fight downriggers are a must. You can purchase dependable hand crank downriggers from as little as $80 dollars to the fancier electric models ranging from $300 to $800 dollars. There is very little pleasure trolling for kokanee with a tuna rod, lead, a three foot long tandem flasher blade
combination and a lure tipped with bait. With this type of heavy tackle all enjoyment
of fighting a fish is lost. In fact the rod required to haul all this junk around is so
stout that most often the angler does not observe the initial strike and trolls a
hooked fish around for hours. Eventually they reel up a drowned, dead fish. With a
downrigger, not only are you placing your baited lure at the precise depth where you
are marking fish but upon a strike the downrigger release clip pops your line free
allowing you to freely fight your fish on light tackle. Since you are trolling extremely
slow for kokanee a four, six or eight pound trolling ball is all you will need. Be sure to
use enough weight to make your downrigger cable run straight up and down while trolling. If your cable is running back at any kind of angle you will not be trolling the depth you are reading. Finned or rudder type downrigger balls are popular. Be sure your weight is vinyl or powder coated. Bare lead should be avoided because it can react electrically with your downrigger wire and spook fish. Black downrigger weights are the most common but some fishermen feel they get more strikes using with red colored weights. The release used on your downrigger is also important. Kokanee have soft fleshy mouths and hit very light. Most typical downrigger releases have too much tension for kokanee. You need a release that can be consistently be adjusted as light as 1/2 lb of release tension.
Electricity on Your Downrigger Wire
Flowing from your boat down your downrigger cable is an invisible electrical current.
If the voltage is just right it will attract kokanee to your lures. If it is too high or too
low you will repel kokanee. Kokanee are extremely sensitive to these electric
charges and most experts now use a black box to regulate the charge on the
downrigger wire. Every serious kokanee fisherman should measure the amount
of electrical charge his boat puts out through the downrigger cables. To do this you
will need an volt meter capable of reading from zero to one volt. With your boat in the
water and the downrigger lowered a few feet into the water, clip the meter's positive
lead to your downrigger cable and the negative lead to your battery or a ground point
on the boat. If you measure over 7/10ths of a volt or below 4/10ths positive you are
repelling fish. The ideal voltage for kokanee is about .65 volts although some fishermen
will run a little lower (.60) and get good results. For a complete discussion on how to test
your boat and correct for voltage that is too high or too low go to the Black Box section on
this website and click on Chapter 3 describing how to test your boat.Another important step
is to insulate your downrigger ball from your downrigger cable. This should be done in addition
to vinyl coating your lead. Lead downrigger weights can frequently contain tin or other metals
that can cause an electrical reaction with your downrigger wire. The result is a repellant
electrical charge right where you don't want it. Insulating the ball from your wire with a nylon
snap (Scotty #1009) or a piece of heavy monofilament will help see that you have a neutral
electrical zone around your ball.