Graybill’s Tips for Catching Lake Chelan Kokanee

Snow capped mountains make for a scenic back drop when fishing for kokanee in the winter on Lake Chelan. (Photo Dave Graybill)

By Dave Graybill

We are blessed with many clear and calm days throughout the winter months here in Eastern Washington. That will encourage kokanee anglers to launch their boats to take advantage of the great kokanee fishing available to them on Lake Chelan. The good kokanee fishing in the winter months surprised anglers last year. It looks like the fishing will be even better and the kokanee even larger this season.

Last year I was invited to try the kokanee fishing with Jeff Witkowski, of Darrell and Dads Family Guide Service, in December. We got our limits in pretty short order, fishing in the Yacht Club area on Chelan. I took my brother-in-law Tom Verschuren to the same spot on a clear and sunny December day, and we got a bunch of kokanee and even a lake trout. A little later in the month my brother Rick and I joined Jeff for another kokanee trip on Chelan. We got 30 kokanee in the same area.

I have made several late-fall trips to Lake Chelan, and found kokanee to be plentiful, and better yet, even larger than the previous year. While last year’s fish were mostly 11 to 12 inches, with some 13-inch fish mixed in, this year’s crop are mostly 13 inches with plenty in the 14-inch class. I started fishing a ways above the Yacht Club and then with each trip moved further down toward the Yacht Club. On my last trip we found fish as far down the lake as the area across from Rocky Point. This is an indication that kokanee are dispersed throughout the lake already. I really didn’t expect to find them so far down lake. This is where I look for them in the spring and summer. It appears that there is a bumper crop of kokanee in Lake Chelan this season and I don’t see it slowing down between and spring.

Every serious kokanee angler has their favorite rods, reels and terminal tackle. There is a lot of great kokanee gear on the market. I have fished for kokanee regularly on Lake Chelan since the early 90s and have tried a lot of different gear. I have enjoyed very good success with kokanee the past couple of years and I will share with you what I am using and how I fish for them. It will at least be a place to start if you’re new to the sport of kokanee fishing.

I start with specialized rods. They have to have a very soft action. Kokanee have a very soft mouth and the rods have to an effective shock absorber. They are very important. A rod that is too stiff will result in many lost fish. When possible I fish with four rods. Two on downriggers and two on lead balls out the back. I prefer this to “stacking” because it saves time and tangles. I started using lead balls on my back rods last year and have had good success so far this late fall and early winter with them.

The two downrigger rods are the 7-foot Kokanee Specials from Lamiglas. I have used these rods for years and they hold up well with downrigger use. I have good quality level wind reels on these rods. The Abu Garcia Revo series reels are favorites of mine. The rods I use out the back are longer. They are 9-foot Berkley Air spinning rods, but have a very soft action. I first got them for fishing big kokanee on Lake Roosevelt, when I am often using side planers. They work just fine when trolling 3- to 4-ounce lead balls. On these rods I am using the Okuma Coldwater line counter reels. It is hard to estimate exactly how deep your lures are running when trolling kokanee gear, but with the line counters I can consistently get back to the depth that I am finding fish.

Kokanee were abundant on Lake Chelan last winter, and they are even bigger this season. (Photo Dave Graybill)

I rig the two sets of rods differently. I can put my kokanee gear directly on my main line with a swivel. On the lead ball rigs I first add a rubber bead, then a swivel so it can slide on the line. I put another rubber bead to protect the knot. It is necessary to then add a connector to allow the blade or dodger to have the right action. You can use heavy mono with a swivel on each end, but I prefer to use the 14-inch, multi-dodger connectors from Kokabow Fishing Tackle. They are made of heavy wire and this helps avoid tangles. You have to let your line out carefully when using the lead balls. If you go too fast the dodger gets ahead of the ball and your leader gets hooked to your line.

There are a lot of different dodgers and blades made especially for kokanee angling. For the past three seasons I have been primarily using the gear from Kokabow Fishing Tackle, and I am not disappointed. The blades come in a wide variety of colors and two different sizes. I use the larger, 5.5-inch blades. They have a “kick” like no others, and that is what the kokanee like. They transmit great action to spinner or squid-style lures. When you are trying to decide which colors of blades to try, I tend to like to run bright colors on bright days and darker colors on overcast days. Some of my favorites are the Watermelon, Yellow Jacket, Blueback, Sunburst and Sunrise.

I also like the spinners and squidders from Kokabow. These also come in a wide variety of colors. The squid-style spinner was introduced just last year and has become extremely popular. The regular spinners still produce good catches, though. Different colors are favorites on different lakes. In our region the fish seem to like the pink and orange colors the best. These two would be my first choices, but it is always a good idea to experiment. This year I tried the new Ravisher color and found it an excellent choice in the late fall.

I would also recommend a leader length of 14 inches. I have fished longer leaders and shorter leaders, but overall a length of 14 inches seems to be just right for getting good action on the spinner. I also add white shoe peg corn to the hooks. I put two kernels on each hook and make sure that they are soaked in Graybills Guide Formula Kokanee or Craw-Anise flavor. I also stain my corn to a deep pink or purple color. The Wizard Kokanee Killer Korn Dye from Pro-Cure works great and it really makes the corn last a long time. I have used the same cured corn trip after trip. I add scent to the stained corn, too.

It is important to have a well-adjusted depth sounder when fishing for kokanee. There is no point fishing in empty water. Sure, there may be some hunting required, but you need to be able to spot schools of fish to determine the depth to put your gear. I will often put my downrigger gear 50 feet or more behind the ball. This gives me enough time to raise or lower my baits to present them to the fish. It will also help keep your speed at the rate you want. I have found that speed of 1.5 to 1.7 mph to be effective on Lake Chelan.

Also, it really helps to have a very long-handled net. When kokanee get up to the surface and near the boat they really start to jump and this is often the time that they shake the hook. Getting a net under them as soon as possible puts more fish in the boat.

I want to mention that cutthroat are very abundant in Lake Chelan, too. Fish to 14 inches are very common, and easy to catch. You can get them by trolling your kokanee gear at shallow depth. You can also switch to lures, like the Mag Lip 2.5 to get them. Anglers often get their 10-fish limits of kokanee and add a five-fish limit of cutthroat to their cooler in a days fishing on Chelan.

There is no need to put the boat away for the winter. There is terrific kokanee fishing available to anglers on Lake Chelan right now, and it will continue right into the spring and summer. If you are new to kokanee fishing this would be a great year to get out and learn what it takes to get some of these wonderful-eating fish.

Dave Graybill
Outdoor Line Blogger
North Central Washington
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Issaquah’s Beaver Lake fall trout plants start this month along with other lake options to catch fish

Anglers can score big trout like this in the months ahead at many west side lakes, including Beaver Lake, a year-round fishing destination, in Issaquah that will receive trout plants.

By Mark Yuasa

This is an exciting time for anglers as fishing holes are less crowded and water temperatures begin to cool-off creating an autumn trout fishing bonanza in some lakes.

Many in the greater Seattle region set their sights on a particular east side lake that will see some modifications extending the chances to catch fish into early winter.

“We’re changing how we stock Beaver Lake (located in Issaquah), and will spread the fish out more, moving away from the one-time stocking event that has occurred in past years,” said Justin Spinelli, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Mill Creek. “It is a much better stocking plan since we’ll be enhancing fishing opportunities through the holiday periods.”

The total plant for Beaver – a 60.3-acre lake – like in past years is 2,400 jumbo-sized rainbow trout that are currently being housed at the Issaquah Hatchery. In fact, until they’re planted you can see them milling at the hatchery pond, and pick out the ones you hope to catch in the near future.

There will be three allotted plants of 800 trout during each time period in October, November and December.

“The plants will happen around the third week of each month,” Spinelli said. “The plan for holiday period is to get them planted the Monday before Thanksgiving and just prior to Christmas.”

The daily catch limit at Beaver will be five trout, and only two fish may be longer than 15 inches. Fishing is open year-round. Internal combustion boat engines are prohibited.

Elsewhere in Puget Sound region, the Marblemount Hatchery is holding onto 300 trout averaging 1 ½ pounds that will be planted soon into Clear Lake in Skagit County.

“We wanted to plant them earlier, but had some warm water issues (due to hot weather in late summer),’ Spinelli said. “The water is now cooling down so we plan to do it soon.”

The 220-acre lake located three miles south of Sedro-Woolley is open year-round, and also has largemouth bass, yellow perch and bullhead catfish present.

Spinelli indicated he is also continuing to work with state fisheries staff to develop a more consistent fall stocking plant for catchable-sized trout.

“We’re hoping to see some of that change in the near future,” Spinelli said. “It is a priority for us, and anglers want the fall stocking, which is similar to what they see down in southwestern region (Regions 5 and 6). Their infrastructure is different in that they have the ability to grow fish year-round. That is something right now that we don’t have so it is a challenge.”

Elsewhere Bradley Lake – a small 9-acre waterway – in Pierce County received a plant of 700 trout on Sept. 25, and another 2,100 trout went in between Sept. 5 and Sept. 18. The lake is open year-round to fishing.

Goose Lake in Skamania County was planted with 530 cutthroat trout on Sept. 26, plus it got 2,096 on Aug. 30. This lake measures 73.6 acres, and is best fished from a small boat (electric motors only), float tube or raft. It is open year-round, but snow often arrives by mid-November making access limited or closed in winter.

Council Lake and Takhlakh Lake in Skamania County each got a plant of 1,000 trout on Sept. 18 and Sept. 15 respectively.

Council covers 43 acres, and is a drive-up mountain lake on the northwest flank of Mount Adams. Takhlakh is 32 acres, and is also a beautiful mountain lake with a spectacular view of Mount Adams. Both are open year-round, but access is usually blocked by snow from around mid-November until late spring and/or early summer.

Lake Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County open through Oct. 31 was planted with 70 adult-
summer steelhead on Sept. 11 and Sept. 20

The fishing on the 52-acre lake should also be decent for 10- to 11- inch rainbow trout peppered with some larger-sized fish and triploids running 1.5 to 2 pounds apiece and a few even bigger ones averaging 4 to 6 pounds apiece.

Sylvia Lake in Grays Harbor was planted with 500 rainbow trout on Sept. 26. It is a small lake covering 28.4 acres, and also has some bigger 4 to 6 pound trout.

Catch More Kokanee with these Useful Tips

Kokanee are one of the best eating fish to catch-Jason Brooks

by Jason Brooks

With temperatures finally starting to warm up it’s time to pull the boat out of winter storage and rig the rods for kokanee!

These tasty landlocked Sockeye are already starting to fill stringers on many Eastern Washington lakes and Southwest Washington reservoirs. Here are a few tips that have put a lot of Kokanee in my boat over the years.

Specialty rods that are limber will increase landed fish-Jason Brooks

Fishing rods need to be specific to this fishery. A 7 ½ foot rod with an ultra-light action is needed to help keep the fish hooked. Kokanee have exceptionally soft mouths and a fast-action rod will usually pull the hook free. Not only should you use lightweight rods, but also spool the reel with 8 or 10-pound test monofilament which will stretch and helps land more fish. The 8 foot Daiwa DXSK802L Kokanee trolling rod is an excellent choice for a this and so is it’s little brother the 7’6″ DXSK762L.

Dodgers and mini-squids are a top producing combo-Jason Brooks

Dodgers and lures need to be “teamed up” for the day’s fishing. The Double D dodger by Mack’s lure along with a Cha Cha mini-squid is a top Kokanee set-up. When using the 9 inch dodger shorten the leader to 8-12 inches to impart some whipping action on the fly or squid behind it. For the smaller 4 inch dodgers I like to pair them up with a Double Whammy wedding ring spinner and a longer leader of 24 inches. Both of these set-ups are designed to be used at slow speed, around 1 mph, which is about perfect for early season Kokanee fishing. Later in the year kick up your speeds to 1.5 mph and switch to a Sling Blade style dodger.

Shoepeg Corn  with added scents tipped on any lure increases bites-Jason Brooks

Corn is a must! White Shoepeg corn for some reason is an absolute must for Kokanee fishing. Corn naturally has a lot of oil in it and attracts Kokanee. To increase your bites substantially though soak your corn overnight in Pro-Cure bait oils along with some Wizard Kokanee Killer Korn Magic which toughens the corn and adds bite stimulates.

Kokanee are sensitive to sunlight, fish deep on bright days-Jason Brooks

Kokanee are very light sensitive. On bright sunny days you will find the fish at deeper depths and it is easier to locate fish during the early morning hours before the direct sunlight hits the water. On cloudy days the fish will be closer to the surface. Downriggers help keep your gear at the right depth once you find the fish.

New from Brad’s is the Kokanee Cut Plug-Jason Brooks

Try something new! Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear have come out with a smaller “Kokanee” cut plug. Just like the bigger versions, they are a hinged plug that allows you to fill the cavity with scents and come rigged with tandem red hooks. You can also get a two pack of un-rigged plugs. The one thing that these baits allow you to do is fish different speeds as they work well from the slower early-season fishing to the faster speeds that work better when the water warms up. These plugs can be fished bare or trailing 36 inches behind a dodger or in-line flasher.

Lake Chelan and Lake Roosevelt are already on fire for Kokanee and it won’t be long before the some of the top lakes in Western Washington start heating up for Kokes. It’s been a long winter and I’m pretty excited to get out there and test out some new Kokanee gear that’s been piling up on my fishing work bench!

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line – Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

www.jasonbrooksphotography.com