Washington Kokanee Anglers Flocking To American Lake

By Duane Inglin | 06/03/2014

It’s no secret. Kokanee fishing in Washington is one of the fastest growing recreational fisheries and continues to gain popularity. American Lake has had kokanee longer then I’ve been alive. Meanwhile, being a salmon and steelhead fanatic I only got serious about kokanee recently.

In my first season a typical weekday morning would draw five to 10 boats, which has changed this year. In early March, even on weekday mornings, 50 boats could be expected.

At American, which is a short drive from Seattle, 400,000 kokanee are planted annually. Half are raised in a pen in Murray creek and released into the lake. According to my friends at Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife they generally have high survivability.

When it comes to kokanee fishing size matters. Anglers want to catch large kokes and the WDFW says the size these kokanee get depends on two things: the number of fish planted and food available. In some cases less is more.

If there’s too many kokanee and not enough food you’ll have small kokanee. On the other hand, when the food available is sufficient for the number of fish planted larger fish are available. WDFW continues to crunch the numbers to find balance. At American Lake they nailed it this year.

We started seeing 14-inch Kokanee in early March when the surface temperature was in the high 40’s and the fish began to get active. By mid-April they were reaching 15 inches and they continue to grow. We are now seeing fish to 17 inches and I feel that by August expect many 18-inch fish.

Some days it’s been lights out fishing with limits in the first few hours. Other days, it can be a struggle. That’s kokanee fishing. You may find yourself trying to figure them out every morning. What worked yesterday morning, may not today.

I use a variety of homemade lures: Hoochies, Bead Spinners, Rasticles, Hoochie Spin-N-Glo’s etc. I also use a variety of dodgers in different sizes. None of my lures go into the water without first getting baited up with Pautzke’s Fire Corn.

In conversations with other kokanee fanatics we agree scent is important when kokanee fishing. I’m a firm believer in corn. With a number of colors of Fire Corn to choose from you can’t go wrong. One thing about the corn I like is it absorbs scents well.

I have a number of scents that I rely on, including squid, anise, garlic, tuna, krill and shrimp. I take one or two scents and squeeze them into the jar of corn, which gives me endless scent/color options to see what the kokanee want each day.

In June kokanee can be found north side of Silcox Island in 75 to 80 feet of water. You can also troll the north shoreline from the boat ramp to the vacant lot, but stay out in 80 feet of water. Go from the north shore boat ramp heading east all the way to the vacant lot. This past week, kokanee were found 35-40 feet deep. However, use your electronics to locate fish and try to maintain 1.2-1.5 mph.