Kokanee Fishing Color Choice Confidence

By Gary Gordon

It is the single most important thing to grasp: kokanee are kokanee and have the same whims, growth, hormone and feeding issues - wherever kokanee are found. So these kokanee issues are the same in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, California, North Carolina, New Mexico and British Columbia.

It turns out that before getting to the point of deciding what colors are the answers to today’s fishing mysteries, selecting color is the last component of a successful outing. Since color makes no sound and has no scent, its single role is to stimulate a biting response.

The next thing to grasp is a consistent presentation strategy. What you are trying to do is make your presentation as 100% efficient as possible. This means that all of your equipment from your boat, trolling motors, fishfinder, gps, rods, reels, downrigger and releases must be working together so that your presentation can be as efficient as possible. Having the “right” colors means nothing if you are not placing your tackle where the fish are.

Correct presentation strategy means also that your dodger attractor and the lure have to work together. You have to troll the dodger at a speed that allows it to attract. That means that each attracting dodger has a minimum speed that allows it to work correctly. What that speed is depends on the size and shape of the attracting dodger.

One of the best ways to check the correct speed is to simply put the attracting dodger into the water on your fishing line right next to the boat, and look at the action. Speed up or slow down the boat speed until you feel the action is what you are looking for. Recognize that the dodger and lure are working together, so look for movement in the lure behind the dodger. You simply do not want the lure to just sit there in a straight line behind the dodger, -- you want some movement. Keep the lure in tight behind the dodger for the best movement. I advocate 6 to 8 inches. Even if your lure comes with a long leader.

For early season, that movement does not need to be great. As the season progresses, speed up your presentation to get more movement on your lure. Also, as your target depth gets deeper, increase your trolling speed, and increase the size of your attracting dodger.

I carry three different size selections on the attracting dodgers for these very reasons.


For all except the apex type lures, it is critical to have a short leader behind the dodger for the lure. This gives the maximum movement to the lure from the movement of the attracting dodger. I prefer only about 6 inches behind the attracting dodger regardless of the size of the dodger.

Next would be to match the dodger colors with the lure colors. Although color is not an initial attractor, it is vital to stimulate the biting response. You want what is making the attracting vibration (the dodger) and the following matching lure to work together.

Finally time to talk color. The following chart shows relative penetration of visible colors in the water column. We all know there is less light at depth. Go deep enough and there is no light. Water absorbs light in sequence of the visible spectrum. Light enters the water as white light. Then very shortly the red drops out, leaving the balance of colors to continue together down the water column. The next to drop out are the oranges, then the yellows, then the green, then the blues and then the indigo and then finally the violet.



But oh joy!! Use fluorescent colors and the color you see in your hand will be the same color at depth. So a fluorescent yellow will still be fluorescent yellow when only violet light can act on it. If it is not fluorescent, it will be black when violet light strikes it. All tackle marketed as “UV” is really fluorescent. There is no “UV” color, and “UV” light does not penetrate the water column more than just a few inches. Mot all tackle marketed today is fluorescent even if it is not marked “UV.” Fluorescent colors penetrate the water column to far greater depths than do ordinary colors.

So, can kokanee see color? Kokanee are vertebrates and as such they have eyes that contain rods and cones. Cones are the part of the eye for color. Salmonids have a distribution of about 10% cones and 90% rods. So color vision is basically limited to an area directly in front of the snoot and extending out about 20 inches or so in clear water.

This is actually a good thing. Stay with me now. You have this awesome hot pink squid properly trailing your dodger. The fish is going to be attracted to the dodger vibrating, but that will be at some distance to your lure. Once that lure become visible to the fish, it is still only seen by the fish’s eye rods in shades of gray and black and white tones. But as the fish approaches that 20 inch mark - voila an explosion of color – just like turning on a light bulb. The fish backs off to 21 inches and it is back to black and white and gray. Come in closer and bam!! Hot color – just the way you planned it topside, but not exactly the way you planned it topside. This color shift works for you as a bite stimulant.

Here are some helpful suggestions about color.
• The first suggestion is that the color of the day, or even of the hour, is up to the kokanee.
• Early season stuff: pink, red, orange, green, natural glow, blue
• Mid-season – absolutely wide open, but add copper and gold to the mix. Run copper and gold setups a bit faster than the nickel. Don’t forget the black and white stuff.
• Later season – kokanee love the blue, pink and watermelon.
• All seasons: White and glow.


Gary S. Gordon, owner Fish With Gary Tackle Co.