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By Danny Coyne, BCFishn.com
The wait is finally over as old man winter is finally letting go and spring has arrived. The lakes throughout British Columbia are warming up and the kokanee fishing is getting better by the day. For many anglers, the anticipation to pursue open water kokanee has been a long wait. Fishing for kokanee in the spring can be one of the most productive periods, while at the same time, anglers can struggle to get a fish in the cooler.
Due to the elements, kokanee fishing in the spring is a much different game than fishing for them during the summer months. Here are five proven tactics that will help you bring home more kokanee this spring.
Kokanee are coming out of their semi-dormancy mode, which means they won't be as eager to chase down and attack the lure like they do in the warmer months. Typical trolling speeds in the spring when the surface temperature is less than 50-degrees (F) can range from 0.8 mph to 1.3 mph. If you troll any faster than this, the kokanee will just watch your gear cruise by. The slower trolling speeds allow the kokanee to come up and analyze your presentation without wasting a bunch of unnecessary energy.
Slowing down your trolling speeds is only half of the equation, though. This is also the time to slow down your lures' action. This means longer leader lengths and less bends in your dodgers, which will result in less whipping action on the lure.
Kokanee are extremely temperature sensitive. They prefer water temperatures that range from 48-degrees to 54-degrees (F) with 53-degrees being the optimum temperature. During the spring, lake stratification hasn't developed yet. This means the kokanee can comfortably move throughout the water column unlike in the summer months. Kokanee will seek the most comfortable water temperature in the system that they can find, which usually means they'll be very close to the surface in small to mid-sized lakes.
The surface layer is usually the warmest layer of water in the lake once the lake turns over. In lakes deeper than 150-feet you really have to rely on your electronics to locate the fish, as they can be spread throughout the water column at deeper depths.
There are many days that the kokanee are only 3- to 10-feet below the surface. A good tell-tale sign of this is if you're not marking any fish on the sonar. This usually means the kokanee are high in the water column and above your sonar cone. When the fish are holding in this zone, it is important to not fish under them and to run your gear very close to the surface.
There's a couple challenges that come with fishing this high in the water column, however. First off, you need to ensure that you are presenting your gear far enough away from the boat (or use side planers) to account for the fish moving around the boat's path. However, the more line you put out will make your gear sink deeper when using heavy attractors.
The perfect solution to this is to use the Mack's Lure Flash Lite® Troll attractors. These lightweight attractors are made of Mylar plastic and will not sink unlike a metal attractor that could weigh up to 2-ounces and sink close to 20-feet when trolling around 1 to 1.2 mph. The added bonus to using the Flash Lite Troll aren't just that they provide 80 percent less drag than a standard metal attractor, but the counter-rotating blades will still spin when trolling at these slow speeds.
If I'm using dodgers, I prefer to use light metal dodgers, such as the Mack's Lure Sling Blade™ 4" or Double D™ Dodger 4.4. These dodgers are light in weight, which helps with depth control and they will still work when being trolled at slow speeds.
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A lot of the time, when I'm longlining my gear, I will still clip my line into my downrigger, even when I'm trolling just below the surface by a foot or two. The reason I do this, besides not having to use small, in-line weights, is because I know my gear will be kept at my desired zone, but it also helps reduce the line from coming out of the water when a fish is hooked. I want my gear to stay submerged in the water with the fish until it is coming into the net. This helps reduce the chances of losing the fish!
As noted above, these fish are just coming out of their semi-dormant winter state. Through my experiences, I have found that using large attractors can be too intimidating for kokanee in the early spring. As the water temperature warms up, the kokanee get pushed together more as they reside within the thermocline of the lake.
When this happens, they have to compete against each other for food and personal space, which makes them extremely aggressive. However, this factor doesn't exist yet in the spring. The kokanee can still be a bit too timid to approach something that they feel could be a threat.
The other factor you have to think about is the amount of flash that your attractor is giving off. When fishing closer to the surface, the sunlight will reflect much greater off your attractor than when fishing at 20- to 40-feet deep. Sometimes, flash can become a deterrent.
In these scenarios, I prefer to use a Flash Lite Troll 2-Blade or 3-Blade rather than the 4-Blade option. If I'm fishing a dodger, I typically use the 4-inch varieties rather than the 6-inch options.
The only time I tend to exempt this rule of downsizing my presentation is when the water clarity has diminished. If the water is cloudy or murky, increasing your presentation size can help the fish locate your gear. Keep this in mind if the lake has an inlet with strong runoff waters.
So, what about lures? The same theory above can apply to your choice of lures. Choosing a smaller profile lure with less action can be the ticket to a day's success when spring kokanee fishing. I especially like using lures that have subtle side-to-side action when the water temperatures are below 50-degrees (F).
Using lures with metal blades aren't as effective during these slow-trolling periods. However, lures like the Cha Cha™ Kokanee 1.5 (featuring a Smile Blade 0.8), Smile Blade Kokanee Hoochie, Double Whammy Kokanee Pro or the Koke-A-Nut Glo all fit the bill for smaller profile lures that provide the right action and profile for spring kokanee.
In the spring, the kokanee can be extra fickle in striking your lure. Since we are trolling slower, kokanee have more time to examine the bait and make a decision to strike or not. Unlike in the summer months, when the kokanee are trying to out-compete each other for your lure, in the spring they have more time to decide.
We need to stack the odds in our favor and give them a reason to strike. Using bite stimulants is the perfect solution to this to encouraging fickle spring kokanee to bite. Mack's Lure UV Bait Scents include 14 gels and 4 oils that are jam-packed full of amino acids and bite stimulants that encourage that fickle kokanee to strike!
Once the kokanee starts to follow the bait, these bite stimulants quickly go to work by being detected within the kokanee's nostrils (nares) and a bite reaction is stimulated. What we are doing is changing the kokanee's attention to wanting to follow your lure out of curiosity to an overwhelming urge to strike the lure.
We hear this all the time when it comes to kokanee fishing, but yet many anglers tend to get stuck in the same old rut of just using their old faithful lures that produced last summer. Pinks, reds and oranges are by far some of the most popular colors for kokanee fishing, but don't get trapped using just these patterns.
Sunlight in the spring is different than in the summer due to the sun being lower on the horizon. Also, water clarity can change by the hour in the early season due to runoff, early algae blooms or even from the lake turning over. Pay attention to the water clarity and think of creating contract in low visibility periods. One good tip is to try to troll away from the sun as much as you can as this will reflect the sunlight off your attractors most effectively.
Above all else, get out there and have fun! Spring fishing is all about blowing off the cobwebs of the boat and fishing gear. No matter what fishing tactics we apply, we can all still experience slow days on the water. Just get outside and enjoy it for what is is — no one should ever feel pressure to have to gloat about posting pictures of their catches on social media. Instead, let's hear your stories about your friends and families enjoying another season of pursuing the Kokanee Kraze!
You can read more of Danny's articles, tips and techniques, and much more at BCFishn.com or follow him on social media on all platforms at @BCFishn.