By Randy Castello
Summertime Kokanee? With this assignment I found myself asking what do I do different for summertime kokanee? After a brief meshing of gears in my otherwise empty skull I came to the conclusion that generally I don’t do anything different. As we are about to explore, I do make some subtle changes to my overall approach.
So you have decided to spend a summer Saturday fishing for kokanee, now what? One of the best ways load the box during the summer is to hit the water early. I’m not talking sitting around having a cup of coffee in your jammies before you leave early. I talking be ready to roll the night before and, on the water, before it gets light early. There are two reasons for this bit of advice. First, kokanee tend to bite best from the predawn until the sun breaks the horizon. If the day is overcast or raining the hot bite period will likely extend but it is not guaranteed.
The other reason to back down the ramp in the dark is that the water-players typically drink at least 2 cups of coffee in their pajamas and get things ready the morning of their adventure; shoot I suspect many get up and say ”Dang its hot out, lets hit the water!” then go tubing, wakeboarding or engage in some activity to get wet and make waves on your previously tranquil kokanee lake.
Where there is a strong surface bite during the early season it is very short lived as summer progresses. As the predawn light transitions to where are my sunglasses? You have to run your gear deeper to consistently put kokanee in the box. A good sonar is helpful, maybe even necessary during the summer. It will allow you to see either the thermocline or at what depth the kokanee are schooling at. If you can’t see the thermocline don’t fret, while kokanee fishing the thermocline is more of a reference than anything. Kokanee will move in and out of their thermal comfort zone in search of their next meal. No fish finder, no problem. Start at about 10’ and every ½ hour or so after daylight run your gear 5-10’ deeper. Make a mental note capturing what depth you start getting fish and that will be your new sweet spot. When the fish stop biting run the gear another 5-10’ deeper and again and again. Well unless your boat limit is already onboard but you get the idea...
Summertime kokanee gear is basically the same as your winter, spring, fall, full moon, hmmm… I’ve got the day off and going fishing kokanee gear. That said, during the summer I tend to run shorter leaders and longer setbacks. I have also noticed that when fishing Westside kokanee small spinner blades seem to have an edge. As with any other time of the year or time of the day for that matter, color can be important. Always hit the lake with an assortment of various color lures. The color of the day can change by the hour and often does during the summer. Speaking about color; I typically run Poulsen Arrow Flash dodgers but whether you are running dodgers, swing blades or even some form of pop-gear consider the color. During the summer once the sun is up metallic colors will have the edge.
Ok, now we are going to get controversial. Scent or no scent? Now that I have completed a 12-step scent-a-holics program I can comfortably talk about it. I used to carry a small lunch box size ice chest full of scent bottles every time I went kokanee fishing. I used to log my success by season, time of day, weather, lake and lure type. The data was eye-opening, it turns out that it didn’t make much difference. Combine that with the fact that I am generally lazy, I stopped adding scents to my kokanee offering. I do use tuna corn as my base and may or may not add a Carp Spit or garlic version to any day’s arsenal. Summertime kokanee are also partial to a real maggot or small bit of worm or nightcrawler. When I say bit I am talking less than ¼ inch of your ground dwelling friend. Kept out of the sun one large worm or small nightcrawler can last all day. Speaking of; keep your worm out of the sun and if you must use scents keep them cool in the shade or under a damp towel.
Care of your catch is important all year and critical during the summer. Do not drag your summer kokanee around the lake on a stinger. After a few minutes your prize catch will not be edible. Summertime surface temperatures can reach 75 degrees and at that temperature it doesn’t take long for the meat to break down. A small cooler ½ filled with ice and water, or better yet; ice, water and a handful of salt will keep your kokanee in prime condition. During the summer it is very important to bleed your kokanee. You can use a scissors or just use your finger to break a gill raker then throw it in the cooler. All will be good and when you get home your kokanee will be in prime condition.
I love summer kokanee. OK, to be honest I love fishing for kokanee any time of the year but summer kokanee and I have a thing. Anytime you can catch kokanee while wearing flip-flops is good! When fishing for summer kokanee hit the lake early and be prepared to change gear as required. Consider adding maggots, worm or nightcrawler to your standard corn offerings. Assuming that the kokanee gods have treated you well, honor them by assuring that your catch remains in top condition. Make sure that you take care of and ice your fish immediately after you catch them.