Kokanee Fishing Guide: Techniques, Tips, and Insights

Kokanee Fishing Guide

Kokanee fishing, the pursuit of the landlocked Sockeye Salmon, is a thrilling experience for anglers of all levels. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, understanding the seasonal behaviors and best practices for catching kokanee is crucial for a successful fishing trip. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know to master kokanee fishing throughout the year.

Understanding Kokanee Behavior

Kokanee salmon exhibit unique behaviors that vary with the seasons. These fish prefer cold, oxygen-rich waters and are highly sensitive to environmental changes. To maximize your catch, it’s essential to understand their feeding patterns and preferred habitats.

Spring: Awakening and Feeding Frenzy

Best Locations

In spring, kokanee start to become more active as the water warms up. They are typically found in the upper 20 feet of the water column, close to the shore.

Effective Baits and Lures

  • Dodgers and Hoochies: Use small, brightly colored dodgers paired with hoochies or spinners.
  • Trolling Speed: Maintain a trolling speed of 1.0 to 1.5 mph.
  • Scent: Apply scents like garlic or anise to your lures for added attraction.


  • Early Morning Fishing: Target kokanee during the early morning hours when they are most active.
  • Structure and Cover: Focus on areas with underwater structures such as drop-offs and ledges.

Summer: Deep Water Challenges

Best Locations

As temperatures rise, kokanee move deeper to stay within their preferred temperature range of 50-60°F. Look for them at depths of 30 to 70 feet.

Effective Baits and Lures

  • Weighted Lines: Use downriggers or lead-core lines to reach the deeper water.
  • Colors: Opt for UV and glow-in-the-dark lures that are visible in low-light conditions.


  • Temperature Probes: Use temperature probes to locate the thermocline, where kokanee are likely to be found.
  • Consistent Trolling: Maintain a consistent trolling depth to keep your lures in the strike zone.

Fall: Pre-Spawning Behavior

Best Locations

During the fall, kokanee prepare for spawning and move towards shallower waters near tributaries and inlets.

Effective Baits and Lures

  • Bright Colors: Use bright orange and red lures that mimic spawning colors.
  • Natural Baits: Consider using corn or maggots as bait.


  • Aggressive Fishing: Kokanee become more aggressive and territorial, so use lures that provoke a reaction strike.
  • Near Shorelines: Fish closer to shorelines and around the mouths of rivers and streams.

Winter: Slow and Steady

Best Locations

In winter, kokanee are less active and can be found at mid-level depths of 20 to 40 feet.

Effective Baits and Lures

  • Slow Presentation: Use small jigs or spoons and fish them slowly.
  • Scented Baits: Apply strong scents to your baits to entice the less active kokanee.


  • Vertical Jigging: Try vertical jigging with a slow, deliberate motion.
  • Locate Schools: Use fish finders to locate schools of kokanee and drop your bait directly into the school.

Year-Round Gear Essentials

Rods and Reels

  • Light Tackle: Use light to medium-light rods with sensitive tips to detect the subtle bites of kokanee.
  • Reels: Opt for spinning or baitcasting reels with smooth drag systems.


  • Monofilament or Fluorocarbon: Use 6-10 lb test lines for their low visibility and sensitivity.

Trolling Gear

  • Downriggers: Essential for reaching the deeper waters where kokanee often reside.
  • Planer Boards: Useful for spreading out your lines and covering more water.


What is the best time of day to fish for kokanee?

Early morning and late evening are the best times to fish for kokanee, as they are more active during low light conditions.

How does weather affect kokanee fishing?

Overcast days can be more productive as kokanee tend to stay near the surface. Sunny days might require fishing deeper waters.

What are the top kokanee fishing lakes?

Some of the top kokanee fishing lakes include Lake Roosevelt, Wallowa Lake, and Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

By understanding the seasonal behaviors and employing the right techniques and gear, you can enhance your kokanee fishing experience and increase your chances of a successful catch. Happy fishing!

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