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Delving deep to catch the kokanee in Ririe Reservoir

Living the Wild Life

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Ririe Reservoir is often best fishing for kokanee during the early morning. | Bill Schiess,

Oh, what a difference a day or a few days make with the heat that we have been having!

“Want to go fishing for kokanee on Tuesday,” a friend called and asked me. “I had a great morning on Saturday, I caught seven fish in just a short time because the fish were in schools from 20 to 40 feet down.”

So, early Tuesday morning we were on Ririe Reservoir – in three hours of fishing he caught one nice 14-incher and I got skunked but did have one on for a few seconds. We found that the water temperature had gone from 60 to 64 degrees since Saturday and the schools of kokanee had dropped from 20 feet down to 40 feet. With our lead-core line, we could not get down to them and they were not willing to come up and play with anything we offered to them.

Tuesday evening, another friend called and wanted to go after the kokes on Ririe and I told him of our experience, but he would not be deterred.

Many of the kokanee on Ririe are running from 12 to 14 inches like this fat land-locked salmon. | Bill Schiess,

“I’ve got my boat set up so we can each run two downriggers and we will get down to them and I think we can have a good time,” Mike Bruton of Rexburg, informed me. “I’ll meet you at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.”

We found a line of fish about 45 feet down from the surface, and Mike, being an experienced kokanee fisherman, had the first kokanee in the boat before I had my set-up down to the fish. But it didn’t take long before I also had a nice 12-incher for Mike to net.

We fished from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. getting 24 kokanee and one trout to the boat before ending a very successful day and some much-desired fresh salmon for my wife and a couple of neighbors, who love fresh kokanee.

Mike Bruton with a kokanee caught off a kokabow dodger on Ririe on Wednesday. | Bill Schiess,

What was different about the two days that changed the outcome? Conditions, equipment and knowledge all played major parts.

“The most important keys to catching kokanee are speed, depth and if the fish are biting,” Bruton told me. “You have to get down to where the fish are feeding and with the “swing blades” that we are using you need to be going from 1.1 to 1.3 miles per hour for them to work properly. If you go too slow, they do not wobble back and forth and if you go too fast, they will spin causing them to tangle up. If you are using pop-gear, the speed is not so critical.”

On Tuesday, we did not have the equipment to get down to the fish, plus there was a stiff breeze so while going with the wind, we were going too fast and when going against the wind, we were going too slow.

The area near the powerline crossing was one of best for kokanee last Wednesday. | Bill Schiess,

While fishing with Bruton on Wednesday, I decided to use one down-rigger and one lead-core line to see if I could catch fish with both. By going out seven colors or 70 yards with the lead-core, I was able to catch three fish while the down-rigger at 45 feet down was consistently producing action.

Most of the kokanee ran between 12 to 14 inches while we caught a few eight- to nine-inchers when we first started fishing. We had more luck up in the canyon near the powerline than we did near the Juniper Boat Docks. We also found that we had more success with orange or pink swing blades with pink hoochies tipped with red or pink dyed corn.

We like to get to the water early and then get off before the wake-boarders and skiers get on the water; that allows both groups to enjoy the water safely. Have a great summer playing in the water.

A fish-finder shows a nice school of fish near the 40-foot depth with some larger kokanee below the school. | Bill Schiess,