The wait is finally over as old man winter is finally letting go and spring has arrived. The lakes throughout British Columbia are warming up and the Kokanee fishing is getting better by the day. For many anglers the anticipation to pursue open water Kokanee has been a long wait. Fishing for Kokanee in the spring can be one of the most productive periods, while at the same time anglers can struggle to get a fish in the cooler.
Due to the elements Kokanee fishing in the spring is a much different game than fishing for them during the summer months. Here are 5 proven tactics that will help you bring home more Kokanee this spring.
Slow it Down!
Kokanee are coming out of their semi-dormancy mode which means they won’t be as eager to chase down and attack the lure like they do in the warmer water months. Typical trolling speeds in the spring when the surface temperature is less than 50F can range from .8mph to 1.3mph. If you troll any faster than this the Kokanee will just watch your gear cruise by. The slower trolling speeds allow the Kokanee to come up and analyze your presentation without wasting a bunch of unnecessary energy.
Slowing down trolling speed is only half of the equation. This is also the time to slow down your lures’ action. This means longer leader lengths and less bends in your dodgers which will result in less whipping action on the lure.
Don’t Fish Under the Fish
Kokanee are extremely temperature sensitive. They prefer waters temps that range from 48F to 54F, with 53F being optimum. During the spring lake stratification hasn’t developed yet. This means the Kokanee can comfortably move throughout the water column unlike in the summer months. Kokanee will seek the most comfortable water temperature in the system that they can find, this usually means very close to the surface in small to mid size lakes. The surface layer is usually the warmest layer of water in the lake once the lake turns over. Lakes deeper than 150 feet you really have to rely on your electronics to locate the fish as they can be spread throughout the water column.
There are many days that the Kokanee are only 3 to 10 feet below the surface. A good tell-tale sign of this is if you’re not marking any fish on the sonar. This usually means they are high in the water column and above your sonar cone. When the fish are holding in this zone it is important not to fish under them and to run your gear very close to the surface.
A couple of challenges comes along when fishing this high in the water column. First off you need to ensure that you are presenting your gear far enough away from the boat or to use side planers to account for the fish moving around the boat’s path. However, the more line you put out your gear will sink deeper when using heavy attractors. The perfect solution to this is to use Mack’s Lure Flashlite Troll attractors. These lightweight attractors are made of mylar plastic and will not sink! Unlike a metal attractor that could weigh up to 2 ounces that will sink close to 20 feet when trolling around 1-1.2 mph. The added bonus in using these Flashlite attractors aren’t just that they provide 80% less drag than a standard metal attractor, but the blades will still spin when trolling at these low speeds. The heavy metal gang troll attractors are not as effective when trolling less than 1.5mph. The heavy blades require water resistance created by the increased trolling speeds to spin the metal blades.
If I’m using dodgers I prefer using light metal dodgers such as the Mack’s Lure Sling Blade or Double D 4″ series dodgers. They are light in weight which helps with depth control and they still work when being trolled at slow speeds.
A lot of the time when I’m long lining my gear I will still clip my line into my downrigger even when I’m trolling just below the surface by a foot or two. The reason I do this, besides not having to use small inline weights, is because I know my gear will be kept at my desired zone, but it also helps reduce the line from coming out of the water when a fish is hooked! I want my gear to stay submerged in the water with the fish until it is coming into the net. This helps reduce losing fish!
Downsize Your Presentation
As noted above these fish are just coming out of their semi-dormant winter state. Through my experience I have found that using large attractors can be too intimidating for Kokanee in the early spring. As the water temperature warms up the Kokanee get pushed together more as they reside within the thermocline of the lake. When this happens they have to compete against each other for food and personal space which makes them extremely aggressive. However, this factor doesn’t exist yet in the spring. The Kokanee can still be a bit too timid to approach something that they feel could be a threat.
The other factor you have to think about is the amount of flash that your attractor is giving off. When fishing closer to the surface the sunlight will reflect much greater off your attractor than when fishing 20’ – 40’ feet deep. Sometimes too much flash can become a deterrent.
In these scenarios I prefer using a 2 to 3 blade Flashlite Troll rather than a 4 bladed attractor. If I’m fishing a dodger, I’m usually using the 4” series of dodgers rather than the 6” series.
The only time I tend to exempt this rule of downsizing my presentation is when the water clarity has diminished. If the water is cloudy or murky increasing your presentation size can help the fish locate your gear. Keep this in mind if the lake has an inlet with strong run off waters.
So, what about the lure? The same theory above can apply to your choice of lures. Choosing smaller profile lures with less action can be the ticket to a day’s success when spring Kokanee fishing. I especially like using lures that have subtle side to side action when the water temperatures are below 50F. Using lures with metal blades aren’t as effective during these slow trolling periods. Lures such as 1.5” Cha Cha Hoochies with .8 Smile Blades, Smile Blade Kokanee Hoochies, Double Whammy Kokanee Pro Series Wedding Rings and the Koke-A-Nut Glo Series all fit the bill for smaller profile lures that provide the right action and profile for spring Kokanee.
Use Bite Stimulants
In the spring the Kokanee can be extra fickle in striking your lure. Since we are trolling slower Kokanee have more time to examine the bait and make a decision to strike or not. Unlike in the summer months when the Kokanee are trying to out compete each other for your lure, in the spring they have more time to decide. We need to stack the odds in our favour and give them a reason to strike. Using bite stimulants is the perfect solution to this. Pro-Cure Bait Scents has an incredible line of scent gels and powders that are jammed pack full of amino-acids and bite stimulants that encourage that fickle Kokanee to strike! Some of my favourite Pro-Cure scents and bite stimulants are Wizard Kokanee Killer Korn, Slam-Ola Powder, Kokanee Bait Sauce, Kokanee Special & Garlic Bloody Tuna.
Once the Kokanee starts to follow the bait these bite stimulants quickly go to work by being detected within the Kokanee’s nostrils (nares) and a bite reaction is stimulated. What we are doing is changing the Kokanee’s intention to wanting to follow your lure out of curiosity to an overwhelming urge to strike the lure.
We hear this all the time when it comes to Kokanee fishing but yet, many anglers tend to get stuck in the same old rut of just using their old faithful lures that produced last summer. Pinks, reds, and oranges are by far some of the most popular colours for Kokanee fishing but don’t get trapped using just these patterns. Sunlight in the spring is different than in the summer due to the sun being lower on the horizon. Also, water clarity can change by the hour in the early season due to run off, early algae blooms or even from the lake turning over. Pay attention to the water clarity and think of creating contrast in low visibility periods. One good tip is to try to troll away from the sun as much as you can as this will reflect the sunlight off your attractors most effectively.
Above all else, get out there and have fun! Spring fishing is all about blowing off the cobwebs of the boat and fishing gear. No matter what fishing tactics we apply, we can all still experience slow days on the water. Just get outside and enjoy it for what it is, no one should ever feel pressure to have to gloat about posting pictures of their catches on social media. Instead let’s hear your stories about your friends and families enjoying another season of pursing the Kokanee Kraze!