Two Interior Kokanee Fisheries that Are Hot Right Now

Kokanee (landlocked sockeye salmon) provide a different opportunity for fishing that often gets overlooked. Kokanee are generally smaller than some other sport fish in B.C., but can be very abundant and fun to catch. As a bonus, they are considered to be excellent table fare. There are wild populations in most of our large reservoirs and lakes throughout the province of B.C. The wild populations can fluctuate dramatically year to year, and these two lakes listed below are in an upswing right now. It’s time to go kokanee fishing and bring the kids!

1. Wood Lake
Wood Lake contains high concentrations of the key nutrients (namely phosphorus) that create a fertile aquatic ecosystem which often leads to an abundance of large kokanee. However, the lake is so productive that it continually teeters on the edge of water-quality issues as the deeper waters become anoxic (no oxygen), and the surface waters become too warm. In 2011, this situation became so severe that a large-scale fish kill occurred. Since then, with the provincial government implementing reduced season openings and allowable harvest, the kokanee population has been re-building. With all-time record spawner returns in recent years, there is again an abundance of kokanee, and what should be another great spring and summer of kokanee fishing this year.

Typically on Wood Lake, people catch kokanee trolling using an attractor (gang trolls, mini-flashers, or #00 dodgers) followed by a short section of line tied to a a smaller-sized lure (like a “wedding ring” spinner, smallest size of Apex, or small spoon) along with the hook “sweetened” with some bait (like an often-preferred dyed pink maggot). In the spring, a small weight will be sufficient to get your lures in the strike zone, but as the season progresses and surface water warms, kokanee will be found in deeper water where downriggers are helpful in getting your lures down.

2. West Arm of Kootenay Lake
The West Arm of Kootenay Lake is well-known for producing exceptional-sized kokanee. As the outlet of Kootenay Lake, the arm has an ongoing current that pulls mysis shrimp and other food items on a “conveyor belt” to awaiting kokanee. The kokanee are vulnerable to capture as they congregate to forage in this relatively narrow and shallow area. To protect the wild kokanee from over-harvesting, provincial fishing regulations limit the fishery to open on very specific days, so you need to plan your outing accordingly. For example, due to an in-season regulation change, the Upper West Arm is only open to kokanee harvest of five fish per day for the first two days of each month from April through July (see Kokanee).  The Lower West Arm is open to a harvest limit of five kokanee on Saturday and Sunday only, year ’round.

The same fishing methods that are effective on Wood Lake should work on the West Arm, but small red or pink lead jigs that are jigged vertically are also reported to work well.

Author: Paul Askey, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC Staff
Photo Credit: Jason Webster