By Brian Chan
From Fly Fishing Canada, Published by Johnson Borman Publishers
Kokanee are landlocked descendants of sockeye salmon and
even share the Latin designation Oncorhynchus nerka.
They are generally found in large, relatively unproductive
lakes or reservoirs where their food base is a range of zooplanton
that occures at varying depths. Zooplankton are those tiny, red
and green or translucent organisms often seem suspended or twitching
through the water.
Typically, these fish are 1/2 - 1 1/2 lb (225-675 g), and the most
popular fishing tactic consists of trolling a small, fluorescent
green or pink spoon or plug, trailing it behind a small willow-leaf
troll or similar attractor. The lure may also be baited with worms
or maggots. Definitely not much there of interest to fly fishers, but
bear with me - it get better . . .
Fisheries' managers have worked with the Provincial Fish Culture Program
toward developing a small-lakes kokanee stocking program in the southern
and center British Columbia Interior. Individual lakes are assessed
to determine their ability to support kokanee and maintain a sport
fishery. All of these waters are nutrient rich and support high
densities of zooplankton, plus an abundance of major aquatic invertebrates
that form the diet of rainbow trout and other salmonids present in the
system. Kokanee have flourished in these water and with no detrimental
effects to existing rainbow or char fisheries.
A major surprise to anglers was the switch in diet made by introduced
kokanee. Once large enough, they began moving from zooplankton to
larger invertebrates like chironomid larvae and pupae and the nymphs
of may flies and damsel flies. This came to light when fly fishers
targeting rainbow trout began catching kokanee. To make things even
more interesting, these fish were attaining weights in excess of 3 lb.
(1.4 kg). Their acrobatic fighting abilities and excellent taste as
table fare caught the attention of ever the most diehard rainbow
anglers. Word spread quickly, and many devoted kokanee fly fishers
now frequent these waters.
In large lakes, kokanee are usually found in deep water as they follow
the daily vertical migration patterns of zooplankton. They have, however,
adapted amazingly well to small to small lakes. Feeding on chironomids,
may flies and damsel flies means spending time in the shallow shoal
zones of a lake, which is why fly fishers are successful at intercepting
Kokanee are a schooling species, so angling success depends on finding
a school and staying with it. On small lakes this means paying particular
attention to the location of insect emergences. Keeping a sharp lookout
for chironomid or may fly adults, then fishing directly over these hatches
provides the best chances of finding kokanee (and rainbows). As swallows,
nighthawks and gulls are very adapted at locating recent insect hatches,
binoculars are an essential tool for searching out potential action
Fly-fishing tactics are similar to those used for rainbow trout, but a
major consideration is that the soft mouths of kokanee require more
care while playing them. This poses a problem as they basically go
crazy once hooked. Kokanee jump, make long runs and always seem to
know where the anchor ropes are handing. To increase the percentage
of fish landed, tie in a 6" (15 cm) length of Shock Gum about halfway
down the leader. This "shock absorber" really comes into play when a
kokanee is close enough to see the boat and starts a series of twisting
roll-overs in a final attempt to get free.
The same chironomid, may fly and damsel fly patterns used for trout
will work for kokanee, but always ensure the hooks are extra sharp.
Their takes are often very soft or subtle, so it is essential that a
straight-line connection between fly line and leader be maintained at
all times during a retrieve. This means taking a few minutes before
starting to fish to stretch out any coils or memory in your line or
leader. Also, during retrieves, remember to point your rod tip right
at the water to maintain that straight-line connection.
When fishing from a boat, always use the double-anchoring system - one
from the bow and one from the stern - so your boat remains in the same
position despite changes in wind direction Floating, intermediate-sinking
and fast-sinking lines all work at various times. By midsummer, when
water temperatures on the shoals become too warm for kokanee, they
concentrate in deeper areas just off the drop-off zones. In these
cases, fish finders become an important tool in locating them.
Some kokanee lakes to consider include Bridge, Horse and Deka in
the vicinity of 100 Mile House in the Cariboo, and Stump Lake
located south of the city of Kamloops. These lakes are large
enough that a cartopper with a small outboard are required to move
quickly from shoal to shoal.
A final tip: Kokanee are ultra-cautious in shallow water, so if
they are feeding on chironomid pupa in water less than about 16'
(5 m) deep, consider using a strike indicator. You must pay
close attention the indicator as a soft take may register as
only a slight sideways movement. When a bright-silver fish rockets
5" (1.5 m) into the air to confirm the strike, get ready for a
truly memorable scrap. ~ Brian Chan
Credits: From Fly Fishing Canada, From Coast to Coast to Coast,
By Outdoor Writers of Canada, Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers.
We appreciate use permission!
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