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Kokanee fishing improving at Ririe Reservoir

Living the Wild Life

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Courtesy Bill Schiess,

A lone fish worked from one of my kokanee jigs to another as I tried to entice it to hit, but all it would do was touch each one.

“Must be a trout playing with me,” I thought as it finally left. I replaced one of my five kokanee set-ups with one designed for trout and dropped it down to the 45 foot depth in the 116 deep channel. Immediately a fish appeared on my fish locator screen and slammed the waxworm baited white lure.

“You guys will want to see this fish,” I hollered to Mike Bruton and Alton Hansen who were hiding from the bitter cold in their heated ice tent. The 15 ½ -inch kokanee was safe on the ice as Bruton came over to see the deep-bodied fish.

“Nice one; what did you catch it on?”

“The white jig we used at Henrys in December.”

It was President’s Day and my two friends had picked me up about a half mile from the Juniper boat docks on Ririe Reservoir where I had been fishing for about half an hour. As the area restrictions of ice fishing was removed on Jan. 1, we wanted to fish up in the canyon in the area where the powerline crosses the reservoir.

Ririe has been slow fishing for kokanee this season and with Hansen’s ATV available we found small schools of the salmon with an occasionally large school consistently moving through in the narrow canyon. We found the schools and singles mostly 40 to 55 feet below the ice as we ended the day with a trout and 14 kokes, three of them over 15 inches. Two days earlier we had fished in the mouth of the canyon taking several kokes between 13 to 14 inches.

“I heard of some very small kokanee being taken down by the dam,” Wade Saurey, from Rexburg, told me as we were discussing Ririe. “Most people are only seeing one or two schools of them come through during the day.”

The fishing was not hot by any means in the narrow canyon, but it appeared the fish were “forced” to funnel through as they have less area to spread out. It also looked like the salmon moving from 15 – 25 feet below the ice were small fish as we would get light hits and no fish while the ones in the 40 – 55 feet were those in the 10 to 11 inch size.

There are a lot of rumors floating around on why Ririe has been poor fishing this year. Some speculate that the plankton, which the kokanee feed on did not develop in the lower part of the reservoir. Another is that the age class of fish, the 2017 plant, was a weak one and there are fewer fishable fish at Ririe.

“I don’t have any good explanation of why the fishing has been slow this winter,” Jon Flinders, a fishery biologist from the Idaho Falls office, said. “It may be a combination of low numbers and of the fish just not biting. When summer comes and we can trap them, we will be able to see what the numbers are.”

The ice appears to be a solid 12 to 14 inches thick with the recent cold but with a predicted warm up, the ice will rot fast. With just a couple of weeks left to get up into the canyon, the near two mile walk is worth it when I can’t bum a ride as long as the kokanee will come out to play.