What is a Kokanee?
Kokanee is the landlocked version of the sockeye salmon.
Size: 15-20”, 3 to 5 pounds.
Their life cycle is four years long. At the fourth year, they spawn.
They fight with the same powerful ferocity as their seagoing cousins.
Kokanee feeds on plankton, but mainly on Zooplankton (very small aquatic animals).
They filter Zooplankton from the water by using numerous fine combs on their gills, called gill rakers.
But that all changes when they spawn!
Until they spawn, kokanees are mostly silver, with a dark back. Spawning fish undergo an amazing transformation, as the body turns bright red and the head a dark green. Male kokanees also develop a pronounced hump on the back and a fierce-looking hooked kype.
They spawn over gravel, and sand in lower portions of tributary streams or along lake shores.
The spawning runs usually occurs between late August and through October in Colorado. Kokanee spawning run can vary from one reservoir to the next. Contact local fly shops for areas you are planning on fishing.
Kokanee are found in many Western States including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado.
Habitat consists of cold, clear lakes and reservoirs and Kokanee Salmon are found at all depths. They spawn over loose rubble, gravel, and sand in lower portions of tributary streams or along lake shores
Colorado has many places to fish Kokanee.
The Gunnison is one of the best Kokanee fishing areas.
The Gunnison River and the East River is catch and release for Kokanee. Taylor River bag limit is 5 per day and 10 total.
- Fly Rod 6 weight or bigger. (They will break a 5wt.).
- 1x, 2x tippet.
- 9’ Leaders.
- Chest waders.
- Cleats or aluminum bars.
- Wading staff.
Copper John (red, green, copper), Eggs patterns, Large red San Juan Worms. Flashy Beadhead Nymphs, Mickey Finn.
Trout take advantage of the spawning runs also.
Fishing egg patterns will give you a chance at a nice trout.
Sometimes catch and keep is a tasty option.
BoB Kinderman’s (aka Rachael) Kokanee recipe:
Pat fillets dry with a paper towel.
Dredge fillets in seasoned flour mixture.
Add in about 3 tablespoons of butter and a couple tablespoons olive oil to a hot skillet.
Cook each side for 3 minutes.
Open natty light, and enjoy.