Kokanee and Walleye Head Up the Best Prospects for Spring

Lance Effrig hefts a two-fish limit of kokanee taken on Lake Chelan. (photo Dave Graybill)

By Dave Graybill 

A couple of years ago I said that Lake Chelan for kokanee and Banks Lake for walleye would share the spotlight for spring fishing in our region. Well, last year the fishing at both of these lakes was even better than I had anticipated. This year I think that they both will be even better.

Let’s start with Lake Chelan. Hang on folks. It’s going to be a kokanee fishing party at Lake Chelan. Fishing for kokanee was good last season, with limits of 12- to 14-inch fish very common. The fishing didn’t slow down and limits were being taken throughout the winter on Chelan. Even better news is that the fish are bigger. Kokanee of 13 and 14 inches dominated the catches this winter, with some 15-inch fish sprinkled in. By late spring and summer we should see many kokanee of 16 inches and even larger being taken. Things are looking up for a spectacular season for kokanee anglers on Chelan.

The wind was howling but the kokanee were biting near 25 Mile Creek on Lake Chelan. (photo Dave Graybill)

I was out in January with Lance Effrig, of Washington Guide Services, and we got 20 fish that day, and even hit a quadruple once. A few years ago this would have been unheard of, but now it is expected on Chelan. We got our fish above the Yacht Club and at a variety of depths. When we hit the quad we had a rod at 125 feet, another at 100, one more at 80 and the last at 60. They all went off at the same time!

Effrig is a man of my same bent. He fishes Kokabow Fishing Tackle pretty much exclusively. These blades, spinners and squid rigs are deadly. I haven’t seen a blade with as much “kick” as the Kokabow, and the kokanee seem to like the spinners and squid rigs about equally. Effrig trolls fast, especially when looking for fish. He will cook along at 1.8 to 2.0 mph at times. He uses a 20-inch leader as a result. I myself usually troll at 1.5 to 1.7 and use a 14 inch leader. Both of us tip our hooks with stained shoe peg corn. We both will start out with a different blade on each rod and then switch until if we think the kokanee are preferring one color over another.

This is a winning combo for kokanee on Lake Chelan: A Kokabow blade and squid, tipped with stained corn. (photo Dave Graybill)

I got this 22-inch walleye on a recent trip to Banks Lake, on a green and blue butterfly blade. (photo Dave Graybill)

I have fished as far up on Chelan at 25 Mile Creek to find kokanee this late winter and as the water warms the main schools will head further down the lake. By late April and May anglers should be finding them in the area of Rocky Point and the Blue Roofs. Soon after that they will be off Chelan Shores and Lakeside Park.

In the early season I expect the main schools to be found around 100 feet down. Later on they will be available in shallower depths. Last season I was fishing with 3- to 4-ounce lead balls on a sliding rig and got limits doing this.

Hang on folks. It’s going to be a kokanee fishing party on Lake Chelan this season!

The walleye fishing on Banks Lake got a later start than usual. It froze from one end to the other and didn’t clear off until April. When the ice did clear off the fishing was great. This year it didn’t freeze and there were limits of nice walleye being taken in February. I expect the walleye fishing to be something special this season.

So far the fish have been deep in the chilly water on Banks. Anglers were pulling worm harnesses or Slow Death Hook rigs down 50 feet. The fish will be moving into more shallow water soon, and these same rigs will produce good catches. I have had great luck already this season with the new Butterfly Blade from Northland Tackle. This blade is nothing like anything else on the market and I would fish it either on a worm harness or a Super Slow Death Hook. For Banks I suggest using blades in shades of blue.

Another really fun and effective way to catch walleye on Banks is with crank baits. My brother Rick and I had many days on Banks when we limited trolling cranks. If you haven’t tried this before better give it a go this season. Get yourself a selection of Flicker Shads and Shad Raps in a variety of colors that dive from 8 to 20 feet and troll them at 2.0 to 2.2 mph. Put them at 75 to 100 feet behind the boat and hang on! When they hit these plugs your rod really bends.

Anglers will start fishing Banks behind Steamboat Rock, and then as the water warms move onto Barker Flats. The fishing inside Devils Punchbowl can also be good in the spring. The walleye will be found off the edges of the weed beds, picking off small bait fish. This can be frustrating, as you will be picking weeds off your baits constantly, but it is worth it.

Trolling worm harnesses and Slow Death Hook rigs will often be the best approach in the early season. The spawn should occur in late April or sometime in May, depending on water temperature. After the spawn the fish will be hungry and aggressive. Crank bait fishing will kick in then and boy is it fun.

Anglers should expect to catch walleye of over 17 inches this season. There should be quite a few fish over 20 inches this year. My daughter caught a 30-incher in Devils Punchbowl in early June two years ago, so some really big walleye can come from Banks Lake. Some of the shallow bays, like Jones, can be productive with crank baits, even in the early season, and the north end, where the canal enters Banks can also be a place to find good numbers of walleye.

There is a lot of water on Banks, so there is plenty of room for lots of anglers. The most popular launch is at Northrup, which has two docks and lots of parking. Don’t forget to have your Discover Pass.

I had a great time on Banks Lake last year, so expect to see me when you’re out there!

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

 

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