The Pursuit of Kokanee begins… with Trout

By Chris Henderson

Fishing Kayaks of Gig Harbor

I will confess I am addicted to kokanee. They are a land locked sockeye salmon and IMHO are the best tasting fresh water salmonid. They are a challenge to catch in that they are very picky. The right color that they will bite on will change from hour to hour, so you have to have an arsenal ready when you go out. They can even get picky over how you flavor your corn. White shoepeg corn is the preferred bait, however, some add tuna oil, shrimp oil, even garlic. One day they will like one thing and the next day in the same lake, they will hit something else! In addition, they are very temperature selective, and will school at very specific depths.

It is early yet but they are starting to be caught at American Lake in Washington. I had yesterday off so I loaded up the Wavewalk W500 NWDR. The NWDR (Northwest Downriggin) is our favorite (and most popular) way to rig the W500 to turn these kayaks into fishing beasts. The downrigger (basically a weight with its own reel) allows for precise depth control. With the two front rod holders I am able to fish two lines at very different depths and the rocketlaunchers in the back hold the net and the Gopro. Because it is early the fish are very near the surface so I had one line clipped in at 19feet and the other I was just trolling on the surface. This was in 80-90 feet of water. This is a big lake and wind and waves can come up, but in the Wavewalk I am not concerned. I was trolling (.8 to 1.5 mph) all day from 6:30 am until I got back to the ramp at 2pm in a variable 5-10 mph wind and had no problems whatsoever.

Unfortunately I was not able to locate any kokanee yesterday. But the trout saved the day by being very willing and hungry. I released them at the beginning of the day, but after realizing that the kokanee were not going to bite what I had brought I decided to take what I was given and have something to take home for dinner. I ended the day with my 5 trout limit of 1 cutthroat trout and 4 rainbows. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the meat!

Fun to be fishing again.

American Lake Map


cutthroat-trout-and-rainbow-trout - cooked and served


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5 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Kokanee begins… with Trout”

  1. Thanks Chris,

    Sorry to learn that the kokanee were harder to catch this time, but I must admit the trout look very good…


  2. Hi Chris-

    Another great tale of fishing in the Northwest. I think that readers may not realize that, even with the drag created by 2 down-riggers, you are trolling with a paddle and not a motor. That takes a fishing kayak that not only glides easily but tracks well too.

    I should also mention the truly expert filet work on those trout. Perfect!


  3. Thanks Michael.
    I actually only have one downrigger but I am able to clip two lines to it (that is called stacking – although in this case I had one as a surface line not clipped onto the line) You are right though I don’t use a motor. The down rigger cable with a 4lb ball allows me to sometimes fish in-between 60-90 feet and still be able to do it easily, all day, with just paddling. Yep the tracking and glide make it doable! It also helps to be able to put it right down the middle versus over the side.

    Early in the season when the water is real cold and the meat is real firm you can get some good fillets. Later it is a lot more difficult. They tasted great!

  4. Those filets are making me hungry , Your trip brings back memories of spring time fishing the shores of Lake Ontario for browns and lakers. I wish I had the W back then since most of the action is near shore and it would have been fun catching them that way. I’m jealous.

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