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The Greater Yellowstone Area is the only remaining large biologically intact temperate ecosystem in North America, comparable in size and diversity to Africa’s Serengeti!Learn More

Ririe kicks out large summer Kokanee

Posted On
Jul 14, 2015
Yellowstone Fly Fishing


By Bill Schiess

The hit was vicious, pulling the trolling line from the downrigger clip.

“It’s the first fish I have ever had do that,” Mike Bruton of Rexburg said as he brought the fish to the surface as he fished Ririe Reservoir last week. “If it is a kokanee, it must be a big one.”

The sixteen inch kokanee would be the largest of the day for Bruton, a dedicated kokanee fisherman who tries to fish Ririe several days each week. During the last few weeks 14 to 15 inch kokanee have been common fare with a few pushing 17 inches for fishermen knowing how to fish for the salmon.

“There are several keys to catching large kokanee right now,” Bruton said. “Time, speed, color and depth are the keys to being successful during the summer for the kokes.”

Early morning, usually around six, seems to be the best as the kokanee seem to be shallower and can be reached by using leadcore line. Later as the sun gets high, downriggers are critical to reach the depth where the fish hang out and finding the depth is the difference of catching trout and small kokanee verses the large ones. Fish locators are very helpful in finding the line of feeding kokanee.

The trolling speed for kokanee should be about one mile per hour. Slower speeds will not make the lures work properly and even a higher speed of one and a half miles per hour creates too much movement.

“Recently we somehow we got our speed bumped up to one and a half miles per hour and we made two passes over a hot area and did not catch a fish,” Bruton commented. “As soon as we slowed back down to one mph, we immediately hooked up.”

The summer trolling set-up for kokanee include a large dodger followed by a “wedding ring” lure or a “kokanee lure” with double hooks about an inch apart to better hook the soft mouthed kokanee. A kernel of Shoepeg corn is the bait placed on each of the hooks. The most popular color combinations on the dodgers are usually bright pink or chartreuse with the small trailing lures coordinated with the dodger.

During the month of July and early August, the kokanee will start schooling up is tighter pods and they can be taken by jigging with the same lures used during ice fishing after a pod is located.  Even with jigging; time, color and depth are very important for success.

On most days recreational boaters and water skiers show up around mid-morning to noon, making it difficult for the fishermen to work the popular trolling areas.

After the kokanee bite is off each day and recreational boating is light, bass and trout can be taken by both fly and lure fisherment by working the rocky points. Fishing with bait off the platforms or anchored near drop-offs around the lake can be successful for perch, trout and at times kokanee.

Once the kokanee start turning their red spawning colors in August, the fish get soft and most fishermen will stop fishing for them and target the perch and trout of the lake.

Photos courtesy of Bill Schiess