Braving the ice to lure the Kokanee

Living the Wild Life

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All photos courtesy Bill Schiess

For fishermen who dream about catching Kokanee through the ice on Ririe Reservoir, their prayers have been answered. As of Thursday, six inches of ice covered most of the reservoir that can legally be ice fished within a mile of the dam.

RELATED: Trolling for Kokanee — in January

There are two major danger spots. One of them is a large circle of open water about a quarter of a mile up from the Juniper Boat Ramp. The other is a large pressure ridge developing about 200 yards out from the boat ramp, running towards the dam.

Tuesday morning, eleven fishermen braved the new, clear ice and ventured out 120 yards where they found willing schools of Kokanee coming to the pink lures offered.

“I have been here since 6:00 this morning and I limited out in less than two hours,” Jim Thompson of Idaho Falls said as he watched other fishermen pulling Kokanee out on the ice. “It has been as good as I have ever seen it except they are not as large as they have been in the past.”

Thompson and his friends usually fish about half a mile up the reservoir, but the fresh ice may not be stable. So they, like others, are fishing the water that runs from 40 to 60 feet deep off the boat ramp. As active as the Kokes were, there was no need to go anywhere else.

Before noon, all eleven of the fishermen had limited out as two new fishermen showed up and began catching. A few Perch and a large cutthroat over three pounds had also been caught.

Wednesday was a totally different story. When I got there at 2 p.m., most of the group of “old coots” were still fishing including Thompson and Ken Stueve. After eight hours of fishing Stueve had caught one Kokanee and a few perch.

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“Nothing like yesterday – maybe they all moved to the other end of the lake,” Stueve said. “I just wish these Perch were about nine inches and then I would prefer them over the Kokes.”

Generally, Kokanee can be found working the water from the bottom of the ice down to 40 feet while perch prefer to stay near the bottom. On Tuesday the schools of Kokanee were continually coming about five to ten feet below the ice or from 20 to 30 feet down.

As Wednesday afternoon progressed, the column of water from the ice down to 40 feet was mostly clear of fish, but there were large schools of fish suspended from 40 to 60 feet. Each time we got our lures down to those schools, we would pick up a perch. Even children were having fun catching these pan fish.

Most of the “expert” Kokanee fishermen now working the ice, believe that we only have a week to two weeks to catch these land-locked salmon before the ice gets too rotten.

In the recent Department of Fish and Game scoping meetings, Dan Garren, the regional fisheries manager, indicated that they are thinking of changing the ice fishing boundaries.

“There is no biological reason to limit ice fishing to within a mile of the dam,” Garren told those in attendance. “If there are problems with ice fishermen disrupting the elk and deer, we will handle that in a different way.”

This means that if this recommendation goes through the vetting process, in January 2019, the entire reservoir may be open for ice fishing.

In the meantime – be very careful where you go on Ririe Reservoir. Be safe and enjoy your outing on the ice.

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